Regulation continues to be elusive for bike taxis

Owing to lack of regulations, bike taxi drivers are seen mostly in plain clothes, making it difficult for transport officials to distinguish them from common people.

Owing to lack of regulations, bike taxi drivers are seen mostly in plain clothes, making it difficult for transport officials to distinguish them from common people.   | Photo Credit: S_SIVA SARAVANAN

‘There are no legal provisions to use private two-wheelers for commercial purposes’

As the popularity of bike taxi services continues to grow in the city, regulatory measures by the Transport Department continue to remain elusive for operation of bike taxis. On August 1 this year, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court stayed the operation of a previous order passed on July 18 by the court that restrained Roppen Transportation Services from operating Rapido, a mobile application where customers can book bike taxis, until the State government frames regulations for car pooling, bike taxis and call taxis.

However, a transport official working in one of the Regional Transport Offices in the city said that there are no legal provisions to use private two-wheelers for commercial purposes and that transport officials continue to crack down on such two-wheelers. “We download these apps and pose as customers to seize these vehicles,” the official said, noting that two-wheelers operating using Rapido app are exempted from these crackdown measures due to the court verdict. With the bike taxi drivers in plain clothes and their two-wheelers bearing no discernible differences from a regular two-wheeler, attempts to identify a bike taxi can be difficult for any observer, let alone the transport officials. “It is up to the State government to form proper regulations,” the transport official said.

While the drivers wear helmets, the bike taxi services do not provide helmets for the pillion riders in many cases. According to a bike-taxi driver working for Rapido, the drivers do not wear uniforms or provide helmets to customers, fearing that they might be identified by either the officials or drivers of autorickshaws and four-wheeler taxis. “We usually take an alternative route if we know that vehicles are being checked in a particular location,” the driver said.

Sources at Rapido in Coimbatore acknowledged that despite the court verdict, the bike taxis have been facing stiff opposition from autorickshaw and taxi drivers. “The problem is there in Coimbatore, but it has reduced now,” sources said. Yet, following the court verdict, the number of bike taxi drivers nearly doubled, with nearly 1,300 drivers working for Rapido in the city currently.

With all the drivers being men, there is a certain hesitance among a section of women in opting for bike taxis, even though college-going and working women tend to use it in the city, sources noted.

Regarding uniforms for drivers, Rapido sources said that it was to facilitate part-time workers who might start accepting bookings from customers immediately after work. For helmets, sources said that the drivers will be warned based on complaints from customers in the application. “We have not received any regulations from the State government yet. Once we receive it, we will instruct the drivers accordingly,” Rapido sources said.

B. Mahesh, a taxi driver and secretary of a local association of autorickshaw and taxi drivers, has been opposing bike taxis since its launch in the city.

He alleged that the bike taxis are “unsafe” as many of the drivers are not professional and that claiming insurance in case of accidents is difficult.

“We are going to meet the Transport Department Minister in January about this issue,” he said. Mr. Mahesh added that a demonstration against bike taxis will be staged in the city on January 3 where members of 12 trade unions will participate.

Consumer activist K. Kathirmathiyon opined that the State government might form interim norms and regulations could be framed to provide clarity for the transport officials.

“State government might be waiting for the Central government to frame the regulations,” he said. However, despite the opposition, bike taxis are here to stay due to its “acceptability” from the public. “The existing transport system has not been able to satisfy the public,” he said. The RTO officials must also attend to complaints of autorickshaws charging excess fare in addition to cracking down on bike taxis, Mr. Kathirmathiyon suggested.

According to a senior transport official, framing regulations for bike taxi services is currently under process and is expected to be finalised soon.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:24:41 AM |

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