Global operators say public bicycle sharing needs policy backing

Global operators say public bicycle sharing needs policy backing
The government's move to promote public bicycle sharing system has started a chicken-egg situation as some of the biggest players in the PBS market debated whether such a programme will be sustainable with limited infrastructure and policy support.

The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), transport experts and operators running successful PBS systems in other countries discussed some of the challenges in the implementation of the PBS in the city.

About seven operators said a successful PBS needed dedicated infrastructure to ensure the safety of people who chose bicycle over motorised transport.

"Instead of having conventional government tenders which award certain funding to PBS operators, we believe the government should channel the investment into better cycling and road infrastructure as a lasting contribution to cities and cyclists," said Dexter Sim, expansion manager of Beijing-based ofo.

Another operator said global investors' interest depended on the seriousness of the government. "We are worried about the safety of our customers as well as our products. We can bring the best technology to protect the bicycles but can't make rules to ensure safe riding for our customers. We also need to know the scale of the project to ensure that it won't be experimental," said a representative of a Singapore-based operator.

Amit Bhat, Strategy Head for Integrated Urban Transport, WRI India, said clarity was needed on the model of the PBS. "The implementation of the PBS and its model, feasibility, monitoring and evaluation should be part of the project," he said.

A senior DULT official said they had identified about 350 areas in the central business district to set up docking stations and were planning to have more than 5,000 bicycles. "We have already written to the BBMP to develop cycle tracks of about 80 km in select areas. They may take it up after the ongoing white-topping (concretisation) of roads," they said.

IISc professor and transport expert Ashish Verma said the situation in Bengaluru needed a push and pull strategy where the government should encourage cycles while regulating other vehicles, whose population has touched about 65 lakh.

"For cycle riders, safety includes the health hazards posed by motor vehicles on the road. Those taking the PBS in the absence of regulations ensuring their safety will be taking a risk like freedom fighters," he said.

In 2014, the BBMP built a 40-km bicycle track in Jayanagar only to see them disappear in a matter of months. "We wrote to the government stating that an expenditure of about Rs 2.5 crore was unfruitful," an official said, adding that strict traffic rules were needed to ensure the tracks were not used by motorists or for parking.

 

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