Journal Issue
Share
Article

Bicycles, Rickshaws, and Carts in Asian Cities

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 1992
Share
  • ShareShare
Show Summary Details

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.

Transport sector characteristics in Bangladesh
Fleet size

(Number)
Unit value

(Tk × 1,000)
Asset value

(Tk × 106)
Employment

(thousands)
Transport charges

(Tk/ton-kilometer)
Motorized vehicles
Buses8,4007005,88015..
Trucks15,5003004,65030..
Small van........15
Other four-wheelers5,400150810....
Auto rickshaws13,940508972017
Inland water vessels2,3003,0006,9002515
Nonmotorized modes
Headloading........62
Cycle rickshaws698,00053,4901,00017
Bullock carts, etc.160,000101,60030017
Country boats300,000309,0001,500..
Small boats........14
Large boats........7
.. Indicates data not available.
.. Indicates data not available.
Estimated number of cycle rickshaws in selected Asian countries, 1988
Estimated number of cycle rickshaws
Asia3,180,000
India1,700,000
Bangladesh633,000
China500,000
Indonesia200,000
Myanmar60,000
Nepal50,000
Thailand15,000
Laosseveral thousand
Cambodiaseveral thousand
Singapore500
Hong Kongvery small
Macaovery small
Others (Japan, Pakistan, Korea, Rep. of)15,000
Vehicles in selected cities and countries
CityYearBicycles

(thousands)
Motor

vehicles

(thousands)
Population

(thousands)
Bicycles

per 1,000

residents
Motor vehicles

per 1,000

residents
China1988300.0001,2001,104,0002721
Beijing19823.773..9,231410..
Shanghai19885,60020012,40044512
India198545,0001,500765,000592
Bombay1981984908,20012011
New Delhi19819453135,80016354
Madras1979272644,0006816
Indonesia1985....164.050100..
Jakarta1985....7,60035..
Surabaya19762001442,300....
Bangladesh19821,50025092,585....
Korea, Rep. of19826,000..39,000154..
Thailand19822,50040049,0005153
Thailand1988..6,30054,960..118
Malaysia19822.50090014,00017964
Japan198860.00030,700122,000492252
Netherlands198511,0004,90014,000786350
United States1988103,000139,000245.000420567
.. Indicates data not available.
.. Indicates data not available.
Number of buses per 1,000 people, 1985
CityBuses per 1,000 persons
Seoul4.59
Chicago4.33
Stockholm1.67
Mexico City1.39
Karachi2.71
Shanghai0.99
Jakarta0.70
Cairo0.55
Calcutta0.42
Note: Includes buses run by public and private bus companies.
Note: Includes buses run by public and private bus companies.
Bicycle trip length distribution in three Indian cities
Percent by distance (kms)
City0-56-1011-1516-2020+TotalAverage trip

length (km)
Population

(millions) 1981
New Delhi24.025.524.615.210.7100.010.95.7
Jaipur65.226.7--8.1--100.04.92.2
Hyderabad49.036.98.72.03.4100.06.40.9
Bicycle trip travel time distribution in three Indian cities(In percent)
Minutes of travel time by bicycle
City<2021-3031-4041-5051-6061-7071-8081-9090+Total
New Delhi28.012.716,915.37.58.16.96,6100.0
Jaipur56.022.99.84.02.44.9100.0
Hyderabad29.628.214.88.77.42.01.31.36 7100.0

Reasons given by cyclists for not using public transport

(Percent)

Other Resources Citing This Publication