EQUIMOB Stakeholder Engagement Event: Mobility of Senior Citizens & Transport Policy in Post-Pandemic Period
The COVID-19 pandemic and imposition of lockdown have changed the modal choices and mobility pattern of older adults in Bangladesh. The restricted mobility has also influenced the psychological well-being of older adults amid the pandemic. A survey carried out by an international consortium of researchers from Bangladesh and the Netherlands, as part of the project Inclusive Cities through Equitable Access to Urban Mobility, led by Prof Ajay Bailey from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, in collaboration with Dr. Shanawez Hossain from BRAC Institute of Governance and Development(BIGD) and Prof. Musleh Uddin Hasan from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology(BUET), Dhaka aimed to gauge this very impact of the lockdown on the well-being of the older adults. The research findings from this survey were disseminated through a virtual webinar with key stakeholders from the Dhaka transport sector. The broader objective of this webinar was to facilitate a discourse where research evidence is considered through the lens of policy-makers’ experience, expertise and judgment, contextual pragmatics, available resources, influence of pressure groups and the policy context
On 3rd February 2021, researchers from the EQUIMOB Dhaka team held a stakeholder exchange event with key transport authorities of Bangladesh, including Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Bangladesh Road transport authorities (BRTA), Dhaka North City Corporation, Dhaka Transport Corporation Authorities and Department of Roads and Highways, Ministry of Transport.
After an initial round of introductions, the event started with presentations from the EQUIMOB researchers, Dr. Selim Jahangir and Ms. Seama Mowri on the online survey findings. This was followed by an open discussion between the stakeholders. Representatives from DTCA lamented how the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in the significant loss of jobs of bus operators, drivers and conductors. There has been no stimulus package or assistance from the government in the transport sector. The Dhaka South City Corporation has only recently turned its attention towards the bus industry and is working to provide a reform package for those negatively affected. He also raised concerns about the rapid increase in the number of motorcycles on Dhaka streets.
Md. Moshihur Rahman from Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit (Route 6) shared that every station of the newly constructed Metro Rail will need to be integrated with non-motorized transport. And there should be separate lanes for NMT to reduce traffic congestion. Dhaka Metropolitan Police representative highlighted that Dhaka could benefit from capitalizing the available water bodies, namely from the Turag River to Sadarghat. He suggested that water bodies could play an important role in enabling mass commute across the city. He further reiterated that bus stoppages in the middle of the road tend to obstruct traffic, and that should be an issue to look into. Particularly more so, given that less than 10% of the land has been allocated for transport infrastructure. At this point, Professor Dr. Musleh Uddin Hossain commented that urban planning and urban transport engineering is a scientific process and not a matter to be taken casually.
Professor Asif Khan from BUET shared his experience of conducting four smaller projects, focusing on risk perceptions of transport modes like bus and motorcycles. He remarked that the findings were very similar to the findings shared by EQUIMOB researchers. It seems there’s been a spike in the sales of motorbikes since COVID-19 due to the perception of it being a safer choice than public transport. However, a recent accident survey by BUET has also shown that motorbikes increase the chance of accidents, since the average motorbike changes lanes six times in one minute (BUET study, 2021)! He ended by reiterating that unsustainable modes like motorcycles should be discouraged, instead cycling and walking should be promoted to include all groups of people, and BRTC may look into these issues.
The event carried on with comments from Ms. Neelima Akhter, Additional Secretary, Department of Roads and Highways. She reminded the audience about organizing and promoting Byaktigoto Gari Mukto Dibosh (Personal Car Free Day)- a day designed to discourage the use of personal cars. She thanked the researchers for sharing the findings and committed to look into the suggestions being given.
Dr. Hasib Mohammed, an academician from BUET, brought up the issue of treat the pandemic as an emergency situation that will pass, and hence should not be used as an opportunity to introduce new policies. Prof Dr. Musleh Uddin argued that there is somewhat of a debate on this point, such that if a transport policy can cater to an emergency situation, then it will also be sustainable for the normal circumstances, and hence applicable throughout. Md. Anisur Rahman from Dhaka Transport Corporation Authority (DTCA) requested the EQUIMOB researchers to assist the transport bodies to develop an implementation guideline based on the research findings.
Last but not least, the chief guest for the event, Mr. Khandakar Rakibur Rahman, Executive Director, DTCA, profusely thanked the researchers and organizing team for conducting such timely research and sharing it with the broader audience and stakeholders involved. He commented on the need for more such initiatives and expressed his interest in arranging a follow-up seminar on how to implement these recommendations.
Professor Dr. Ajay Bailey concluded the event by thanking everyone for their active participation. He also welcomed participants to reach out to the research team for any special requests around our research and committed to future engagements of such kind.