In a bid to turn eco-friendly, Bengaluru is welcoming cycle sharing programs as a viable solution to address last–mile connectivity issues. Though citizens are ready to embrace the green mode of transport, the government has been slow to build bike-friendly infrastructure, such as cycle tracks and parking hubs.
Under the Public Bicycle Sharing system (PBS), operators such as Pedl by Zoomcar, Yulu and Metro Bike have been issued permits by the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT). Along with the BBMP, DULT has also offered to build infrastructural facilities for cyclists. The city’s bike sharing system, however, is a victim of bureaucratic delays. Though permits for Public Bicycle Sharing system has been issued by the government, the infrastructure promised has yet to take shape.
But the lack of government-supported infrastructure in place hasn’t stopped the spirit of cyclists. Many citizens are choosing to pedal anyway, with operators such as Pedl and Yulu running for months now.
“We have deployed 3,000 cycles, among which 2,500 cycles circulate on a daily basis. And stations are set up in locations where there is legal permission for the public to park,” said RK Misra, co-founder of Yulu. Bicycle stations are found outside public areas such as metro stations, parks, educational institutions, residential areas, apartment complexes and IT parks. Cycle operators are required to pay a nominal fee of Rs 50 per cycle, per year under the permit system.
Though these cycle operators have continued to function, they have not yet been “officially” launched. “With the current three operators, we have over 2,000 bicycles under the permit system. But officially it is yet to be launched as we haven’t received a date from the chief minister,” said N. Murali Krishna, Special Officer of DULT.
He also stated that the Public Bicycle Sharing system (PBS) in Bengaluru is not a public-private partnership as the government does not have any revenue arrangements with the operators. “We are only building the infrastructure needed by the citizens,” he added.
While DULT remains the nodal agency for planning and funding this project, BBMP is the executive agency responsible for building the necessary infrastructure. “We have asked the BBMP to build cycle tracks wherever tender sure roads are coming up. And in the existing roads where there is no scope for immediate expansion, they will be designating cycle lanes. Until now, we have identified around 125km of cycle lanes,” said Murali Krishna. A cost of 14 crores has been estimated for the construction of 400 parking hubs in an area of 28 square km across various locations in the city.
The areas to be covered under Phase 1 of PBS include Koramangala, Indiranagar, Vidhana Soudha, Cubbon Park, Central Business District, HSR Layout and parts of HRBR Layout. Though the permits issued by DULT will allow the bike share operators to make use of future infrastructure within these areas, the companies are allowed to function throughout the city.
But Praveen Lingappa, the executive engineer of BBMP confirmed that the construction of PBS related arrangements hasn’t commenced. “The councillor has approved the estimated locations and cost, but the work is yet to begin,” he said.
A Green Step
Regardless of government delay, cycles have become a familiar sight in the city. Bengalureans are turning towards app-based dockless bicycle services, which many say are affordable to rent and convenient to use. Since these cycles are available several metro stations, it is a boon to those in need of transportation for short travels. Pedl cycles can be unlocked by scanning the QR code on Paytm, which is also used to make the payment. These trips are priced at Rs 3 per 10 minutes.
Users can access the Pedl Zoomcar website to locate their nearest Pedl station and also check the availability of cycles. Similarly, to use a Yulu bike, one needs to download the Yulu app, with which they can locate bikes, unlock them and pay for their rides. Yulu trips are charged at Rs 10 for the first 30 minutes and Rs 5 for every subsequent 30 minutes. However, these rental cycles are to be picked up and dropped only from designated Pedl and Yulu locations.
With busy work schedules, finding time to exercise is quite a task. In such a scenario, pedalling seems like a blessing in disguise. Aditya Harindar, 23, an employee of Zop Smart in HSR Layout is a regular user of Pedl, and has embraced it as a mode of transportation and a fitness regime. “The Pedl station is located close to my office, so I use it to commute around HSR Layout for work or even to have lunch. Thanks to cycling, I now get my daily dose of exercise,” he says.