By Muhtasim Afridi/ HR Gardezi
ISLAMABAD, Aug 27 (APP)::Transportation stands as an indispensable component of daily existence, serving as the bridge that connects individuals to their workplaces, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and leisure pursuits. Amid current economic challenges, citizens strive for affordable mobility solutions, reshaping their interactions with a crucial aspect of existence.
The recent surge in petrol prices has become a pressing concern for citizens across the country, altering transportation dynamics and impacting daily lives. With the current economic trajectory, deciding to invest in a fuel-based vehicle has become a daunting decision.
Data from June 2023, released by the Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA), reveals a 37.7% decline in the total vehicles sold in the fiscal year 2023 (13.48 lakh units), compared to 21.63 lakh units in fiscal year 2022.
Armaan Khan, a vehicles’ showroom owner in Islamabad, reflects the impact: “Car prices have surged dramatically. A Daihatsu Mira 2020 model that sold for 20 lakhs in 2022 now stands at 33 lakhs.”
Hike in fuel prices and vehicles’ costs are two major contributors that have significantly affected overall car sales, forcing people to look for alternative affordable transport options, he remarked.
The recent petrol price hike has compelled middle-class and some upper-class families to reconsider car use, turning to motorbikes as an alternative. According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, motorbike ownership has risen from 41% in 2015 to 53% presently. Muhammad Jasim, a Rawalpindi resident, illustrates the shift: “With petrol prices soaring, I switched from a car to a motorbike to cut travel costs to meet other must have household necessities.”
As inflation continues, many opt for shuttle services to reduce expenses. Yet, the economically disadvantaged seek a more economical solution. Muhammad Shehzad from Bahawalpur, a tailor earning Rs45, 000 monthly, swapped his motorbike for a second-hand bicycle to combat high petrol costs. He also complained for the inconsistency in pricing for a standard bicycle, with each individual seller setting their own prices, seeking authorities’ concerned intervention.
Muhammad Azam, a resident of Jhang and bicycle retailer at G-9 Islamabad, acknowledges the increased demand this year. Offering bicycles priced from Rs30, 000 to 65,000, he achieves weekly sales of 10-15 units, resulting in a monthly income of approximately 1 lakh. Azam openly admits that the booming demand presents an opportunity for sellers to profit, while he also expresses concern for the challenges faced by daily wage earners due to these market dynamics.
For short distances, bicycles are a practical substitute. However, as petrol prices escalate, bicycle demand surges. Shopkeepers, recognizing this trend, have raised bicycle prices from Rs18, 000 to 30,000. This poses a challenge for daily wage earners who sustain their families.
Nasir Khan, a daily commuter from Jinnah Garden to Zero Point for work, commends CDA’s blue line metro, stating, “Personal vehicles are no longer affordable for the salaried class. I’ve parked my car, opting for a daily walk to Gulberg to catch the blue bus. I urge the authority to extend coverage, ensuring economical mobility for more people.”
In a nation grappling with economic instability and soaring inflation, saving is paramount. For the middle and upper class, inflation may be manageable, but for the lower class, it’s an uphill battle. A bicycle emerges as the cost-effective solution. As demand surges, prices follow suit, affecting even the earning potential of some. Authorities need to take notice, as bicycles still serve as a survival for many.
One solution to many interlinked problems lies with the adoption of a robust public transport system and holds the potential to yield dual benefits for the nation. On one hand, it stands as a strategic maneuver to curtail the country’s soaring fuel expenses, freeing up resources that could be channeled into other essential sectors.
On the other, it resonates with the aspirations of citizens, offering them a practical and affordable alternative for their daily commute.