RAWALPINDI: Due to social and cultural constraints, bike riding for women is not common in Pakistan. However, keeping in view the sufferings of the women commuting by public transport in big cities, Punjab government started ‘Women on Wheels’ project in 2016 to facilitate and encourage women travelers to drive own bikes. During launch of the program, the government highlighted gender-based violence and problems faced by women folk while traveling by public transport. However, due to poor planning on part of the authorities concerned, the project failed to attract women, especially in Rawalpindi.Initially, the program was launched in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Sargodha and Rawalpindi districts. In the first phase, women from different walks of life were imparted motorbike riding training in each district. In the second phase, it was decided to provide motorbikes to those women who had completed training. However, in a major blow to the success of the project, only 19 percent of the trained women in Rawalpindi submitted applications for obtaining bikes. Muhammad Irfan, focal person for the program in Rawalpindi, said that 144 women were imparted training in October 2016 and 20 more were trained in 2018. “City traffic police trained 166 women from different walks of life including students, working women and housewives on motorbikes,” he said. The spokesperson claimed that during the training period, none of the participating women ever complained of any difficulty while riding a motorbike. However, he continued, after receiving such a small number of applicants for the second phase, the participants were contacted to learn about issues that were keeping them away from riding motorbike. “They apprised us that the government should provide them with the scooties instead of motorbike,” he said.Salma Kanwal Shah, coordinator of students affairs at a private university in Islamabad, lauded the Punjab government’s initiative and said it is a reality that women face several problems while travelling in public transport. However, she lambasted the idea of providing women with motorcycles for riding and said women across the globe drive scooties which are more comfortable. Focal person for the program in Rawalpindi, Additional Deputy Commissioner General Sara Hayat said that only 31 applications have been received for obtaining motorcycles. “After completion of the verification process, these applications will be sent to Lahore for issuance of bikes through draw,” she added.Hayat maintained that there might be some social constrains in the way of women to participate in this program. “Sometime women, especially students, want to drive a motorbike but their families do not permit them,” she said. Under the project, Punjab government will provide around 1,000 motorbikes which are especially designed for the women and market price of these bikes is almost Rs 75,000. Government will pay Rs 25,000 as subsidy on each bike, and it will be available for the applicants at a subsidized price of Rs 50,000.Lubna Imran, student of a private university, said, “I’m sure that these 31 women who have applied for the motorbikes will never be seen on the roads in Rawalpindi even after getting the bikes. Same like other programs, these bikes will be used by the women’s brothers, husbands, fathers or sons,” she worried. In 2014, Pink Transport Service was launched to provide respectable and reasonable transportation facility for women in Rawalpindi. The service was launched through public-private partnership and consisted of a total of 12 wagons running on two routes.The service was the first of its kind and was much appreciated by people from all walks of life. However, it was stopped when the private sponsors pulled out and the Rawalpindi Transport Authority couldn’t arrange alternative funding to keep it running.Published in Daily Times, May 27th 2018.