Officials to pave the way for e-bike taxi services in Bengaluru

E-bikes outside a metro station. The move is likely to help lakhs of Namma Metro passengers who are looking for economical and hassle-free ways to reach their destinations from stations.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

The Transport Department has decided to come out with guidelines to issue permits to allow electric bike taxi operators in the city and fix a fare structure. This comes a day after Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa announced in the State Budget that e-bike taxis will be allowed in the city to help improve last-mile connectivity.

The move is likely to help lakhs of Namma Metro passengers who are looking for economical and hassle-free ways to reach their destinations from stations.

Transport Commissioner N. Shivkumar said, “In the past, there were deliberations on whether bike taxi services should be allowed. Now, the State government has given the green light. We will formulate guidelines to regulate electric bike taxis. A decision will be taken on fixing a fare structure by April.”

However, the government is clear that only electric bikes will be allowed. “They are environmentally friendly and not expensive as the cost of operations is around 50 paise per kilometre. The customer may get the service for less than ₹5 per kilometre,” said a senior official from the Transport Department.

The proposal may face opposition from auto and taxi drivers, and may eat into the revenue of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC). In addition, providing charging points is very crucial for the success of the project.

Transport experts remain cautious of the success of the initiative. “It is very difficult to say how sustainable and effective e-bike taxi services will be for first- and last-mile connectivity. It will be known only after a pilot study,” said Ashish Verma , Associate Professor, Transportation Systems Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science.

He cited a past study which indicated that two-wheelers and pedestrians are vulnerable to road accidents. “The study indicates that 45-50% of road fatalities involve two-wheeler riders. Allowing more bikes on the roads may also increase their vulnerability to road accidents. We have already seen how bike rental services are being misused in the city,” he said, adding that the safety of women passengers also needs to be considered.

Past crackdowns

The change in the government’s stance comes after a series of crackdowns on mobile app platforms, such as Uber, Ola and Rapido among others, that had introduced the service with regular motorcycles. Both Ola and Uber had introduced the service in 2016. The Transport Department came down heavily on them citing lack of legal provision to offer the service in the city.

Hundreds of their vehicles were impounded, and cases were booked against bike owners who had attached their vehicles with the aggregators. Heavy penalties were levied.

The main contention of the Transport Department was that bikes registered as private vehicles (white number plates) were being used for commercial purpose. The department had also pointed to the risk to pillion riders (customers) owing to lack of proper insurance cover.

The crackdown received criticism from various quarters with many accusing the department for being 'outdated' and discouraging start-ups.

Taxi aggregators made a second attempt to introduce bike taxis in 2019. This time, officials took an aggressive step by cancelling the licence of Ola to operate taxis in the city for a period of six months. However, the suspension was revoked after the government intervened, and Ola was asked to pay a penalty of ₹15 lakh for operating bike taxis without permission.

The State government formed a committee headed by Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) MD Ajay Seth to come out with a proposal on providing efficient and sustainable transport services in the city. The committee had also deliberated on allowing bike taxi services.

Bike rentals

At present, many start-ups provide bikes on a rental model. Officials estimate that there are 20,000 two-wheelers registered to provide rental services.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 1:27:32 PM |

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