First things first, there are many capital cities of the world that have poor traffic congestion: Kathmandu, Delhi, Kolkata, Colombo, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok…yet none of those are anywhere near as bad as what I have encountered during my time in Dhaka. Check out some of the Dhaka streets scenes and traffic noise from the embedded video below:
In Bangladesh and India, I have observed that the use of the horn on the car, bus or auto-rickshaw is used as a way of not warning someone of impending danger – as would be the way in the West – but to basically say “my horn is louder than yours”. In this regard, it is still a warning, but the use of the horn is something of an after thought. “Get out of my way, I am coming through”, seems to the overriding mentality of drivers in Bangladesh. You would have thought that in a largely riverine country as Bangladesh there would be less need for motor vehicles on the roads, but obviously not. I hear there is an underground Metro System being built at the moment in Dhaka, that will decrease the number of people needing to use the roads. These 3 planned MRT lines are due to open in 2019, though until then locals and tourists must continue to brave the roads above ground.
So how exactly did I survive Dhaka’s roads? Well, first of all, I needed to have my wits about me. I have had much experience in busy cities in the world so far, and while Dhaka is quite frightening even for me, I think that if you also have experience in busy cities, then you should also be alright. Common sense is a virtue; try to avoid walking through large groups of people by the side of the road, and also avoid playing chicken with oncoming traffic. You probably won’t win! I have seen cyclists being run over by vans, and also 2 buses colliding at an intersection whilst I have been in Dhaka. My Bangladeshi friend with whom I experienced everything attested that this kind of thing is a weekly occurrence here.
Mind you, not only the trucks and buses are cause for the concern on the roads of Dhaka. Even the pedal rickshaws stop for nobody around here, and there are so many of them! Most of the drivers are friendly enough, although clearly they just want your custom! On the roads in Bangladesh, you may see (and hear!) the auto-rickshaws much more often than the regular pedal rickshaws, as their noisy horns and exhaust fumes pollute the air so much that you cannot ignore them!