Nonmotorized vehicles continue to be an important part of urban transit systems in Asia
When it comes to urban transportation and haulage, it may be a case of “Back-to-the-Future” for Asian cities. Nonmotorized vehicles (NMVs in the jargon of economists and city planners) account for 25 to 80 percent of all vehicular transport in many Asian cities. In Shanghai, for example, nearly half the population rides a bicycle, and rickshaws and hand-pushed carts are a widespread sight in most cities in Asia today.
Although the number of cars is increasing at great speed, the number of NMVs also continues to rise. This may be good news for city planners and environmentalists who are trying to cope with pollution and other costs associated with motorized traffic in developing cities. NMVs offer affordable, quick, and convenient transportation for trips of short to intermediate distances. They are also ecologically sound, significantly reducing air and noise pollution, petroleum consumption, global warming, and traffic congestion.
Yet, the future of NMVs is at risk unless their use is supported by government policy. As Asian cities continue to grow—most of the world’s largest cities are in this region—and as the number of motor vehicles increases, street space for safe NMV use is frequently lost. In addition, credit financing and transport planning often favor motorized vehicles. In Jakarta, for example, bans, fines, and taxes that severely restrict or eliminate rickshaws have been in effect over the past five years.
Nevertheless, support for one transportation mode need not exclude the other. Adopting regulations that support NMV use, while allowing for motor vehicles and pedestrian traffic, is an attainable, realistic goal, as many Asian cities have discovered. This can be achieved by maintaining extensive cycle paths and NMV parking at rail and bus terminals to provide easy access to as many destinations as possible to both drivers and cyclists. Employee commuter subsidies offered to those bicycling to work, and accelerated domestic NMV production are other effective incentives for NMV use.
As indicated in the accompanying tables and charts based on a recent World Bank report, NMVs play an important role, for a number of different reasons, in total vehicle share in Asian cities. With suitable policies supporting their use, this share could grow larger.
This presentation is based on Non-Motorized Vehicles in Asian Cities, by Michael Replogle, World Bank Technical Paper Number 162, available from the World Bank Publications Sales Unit, $6.95.
(Tk × 1,000)
(Tk × 106)
|Inland water vessels||2,300||3,000||6,900||25||15|
|Bullock carts, etc.||160,000||10||1,600||300||17|
|Estimated number of cycle rickshaws|
|Hong Kong||very small|
|Others (Japan, Pakistan, Korea, Rep. of)||15,000|
|Korea, Rep. of||1982||6,000||..||39,000||154||..|
|City||Buses per 1,000 persons|
|Percent by distance (kms)|
|Minutes of travel time by bicycle|