Shayok Mahbub, a college student, lives in Jigatola and commutes to the Clemon Indira Road Cricket Academy every afternoon on his bicycle.
Recently, a new cycle lane has been launched at the Manik Mia Avenue, but Shayok was riding outside of it.
"There is no doubt that this is a good initiative. But only marking the lane is not enough, as these are occupied by different vendors and motorbikers. Even buses stand here to take passengers. The lane has to be completely free, otherwise there is no use of it."
Separate cycle lanes have been a long-standing demand of bikers in the country. In October 2019, the country's first such lane was inaugurated in Agargaon. The Manik Mia one is the capital's second dedicated cycle lane. The lanes have been marked green with white cycle icons on both sides of the 0.99km road, starting from the intersection opposite Lalmatia Aarong to Khamarbari.
Unfortunately, although it has been a week since it opened to traffic, very few cyclists seemed interested to follow the lane. At least 50 makeshift carts of street vendors still occupy the lane, beside a police box. Photos of buses plying the cycle lanes have already gone viral on social media. Buses of private organisations also regularly pick-up and drop their employees along these cycle lanes.
Meanwhile urban experts say without a comprehensive plan to set up a cycle lane around the city, such piecemeal initiatives are meaningless. In the case of Manik Mia, the massive width of the roads itself render a cycle lane meaningless as cyclists already have enough space to safely navigate the street.
Many cyclists, also, are against the idea of removing the street vendors to clear the cycle lane.
"Manik Mia Avenue is not just another road of Dhaka, it has become a cultural icon for the people of this city," said Fuad Ahsan Chowdhury, a spokesperson from one of the biggest cycle communities of the country, BDCyclist.
"People come here for refreshment, to spend some quality time in this crowded city. We are grateful to our government for such initiatives but our community does not want to go against other citizens. We want to own such initiatives together."
Bismillah Chat House is a fuchka shop among many lining both sides of the street on Manik Mia. It has been operating for over 15 years on this road.
Abdul Malek, an employee of the fuchka cart said, "We have been told a couple of times already to move our shop from here. Where will we go? Five families depend on the earnings of this shop. We are living in fear right now."
When asked about how effective this lane would be, Fuad Ahsan, another cyclist, said, "I think such lanes should be avoided where people gather for recreation. Also, the lane could be much more effective if it was a protected one."
Urban Planning Researcher and Director of Paraa Ruhul Abdin emphasised on having a fair, inclusive and accessible road transportation system rather than such once-in-a-while individual initiative.
"Cycling in this city is highly dangerous due to our lack of proper transportation management. Despite that, this city has seen exponential rise in the hype around cycling. I want to ask, how useful is it to have a single cycle lane in roads like Manik Mia Avenue? Does it really make any difference? Rather it could be much more useful in roads like, for example, Gulistan to Uttara."
The city authorities need to come up with a rigorous plan which will include every stakeholder like street vendors, buses, rickshaws, private sector and of course, cyclists and bikers.
A comprehensive plan like the metro rail can ensure safety and encourage cycling among city dwellers to ensure a greener city.
There is no doubt that city dwellers have yearned for such amenities for a long time. But the reality is, such initiatives remain fruitless without planning and post management.
The lane has not yet come to use completely but this does not disregard the fact that this city needs such cycle lanes, especially in the busier and riskier roads.