Rent A Bike, Catch A Train: Two-Wheelers As Last-Mile Connectivity To Mass Transit

by Srikanth Ramakrishnan - Feb 23, 2018 09:45 AM +05:30 IST
Rent A Bike, Catch A Train: Two-Wheelers As Last-Mile Connectivity To Mass TransitBike-sharing in Milan (Jcrackow/Flickr)
Snapshot
  • What if the metro rail or the public bus doesn’t take you right up to your destination?

    That is where a two-wheeler on rent can plug the last-mile connectivity gap.

To improve last-mile connectivity to metro stations in Bengaluru, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has tied up with a startup called Metro Bikes, which will offer two-wheeler rentals at metro stations, reports Inc42.

In 2016, the BMRCL had tied up with Metro Bikes’ parent company, WickedRide, to offer bike rental services at stations.

Metro Bikes will offer anywhere from 65 to 100 bikes for rent at 36 of BMRCL’s 42 stations in the city. Users can book them either on their mobile phone application or at the various points in the city. The bikes in question work with a key and require a one-time password (OTP) for access.

According to BMRCL managing director Mahendra Jain, Metro Bikes will pay Rs 2.75 crore per annum towards rent for the space.

The Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) too is looking at providing electric bikes (e-bikes) for last-mile connectivity. Although not official, bike taxi aggregator Rapido also offers pick-ups and drops at select metro stations. Bike taxis otherwise are illegal in Karnataka.

Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) too has gone in for a similar arrangement, albeit with bicycles. Bicycle rental platforms have existed in India for nearly a decade now. Bengaluru got it in 2011 when the first line of the metro was thrown open. Other cities like Ahmedabad got it along the Janmarg Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).

Both rental bicycles and motorbikes are similar in many ways barring two things – fuel and licence requirement. While Metro Bikes will charge users based on distance and time to cover rental and fuel charges, one question arises: what if someone runs out of fuel and pays for it out of their pocket? This might not be much of an issue with e-bikes since some of them can be charged on the fly using a dynamo (by pedalling or using regenerative braking) or with solar. They also don’t require the rider to possess a driving licence, providing them with a larger market to operate in.

Renting vehicles vs hailing a cab

Renting a vehicle gives the user more control over their travel. While it can be considered to be at par with driving your own vehicle, it is not the same. The reason is that the chances of the vehicle being utilised by multiple people is high and therefore it isn’t underutilised for the most part. It would be very useful for people who have jobs and need to undertake long commutes in the day; they can take a metro or a bus and then rent a bike for the last stage of their journey and return to the station later when heading back.

However, the bike-sharing model such as that seen in UberMoto, OlaByk, and Rapido has an added benefit. The burden of returning the vehicle doesn’t fall on the user but on the service provider.

In a city like Bengaluru, where roads tend to be narrow and facing high traffic, not to mention the sometimes undulating terrain, two-wheelers are ideal. That makes the case for lifting the ban on bike-taxi services. In other cities, depending on the locality, bicycles and motorbikes can both be tried out.

A case for e-bikes

As the Union government pushes for electric vehicles, adoption of e-bikes for last-mile connectivity is sensible. Further, without the licence requirement, it would see a larger adoption by the crowd. The power output of an e-bike is far lesser than that of a bike powered by fuel, thus making it less dangerous in the event of an accident.

If e-bikes are given a preference, it would also result in an increase in charging stations. These could later be extended to cars as well, when the demand is created.

Over the long term, Bengaluru and Chennai are on the right track.

Srikanth’s interests include public transit, urban management and transportation infrastructure.

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