Panchkula women give thumbs down to ‘bike taxis’

In addition to mandatory police verification checks for Buddies, they are made to undergo a defensive driving course and trained in handling customers.

Written by Srishti Choudhary | Chandigarh | Updated: December 10, 2015 6:24 am
Bike taxis,or Baxis, in Gurgaon. (Express photo) Bike taxis,or Baxis, in Gurgaon. (Express photo)

This Christmas, Panchkula is set to become the second district in Haryana after Gurgaon to have bike taxis, or Baxis, but women in the city are certain that this is one public transport that they will not be using. Women that Chandigarh Newsline spoke to about the service cited personal and road safety issues for their thumbs down.

As per the initial plan, at least 10 bikes will start plying on Panchkula roads later this month. The service is being launched by Ashutosh Johri and Manu Rana, batchmates from IIT-Delhi.

A Baxi can be identified by its yellow number plate and the driver is called Buddy or ‘driver partner’. Baxis can seat a single passenger — no triples. The passenger will be dropped off at any requested point. Charges are based on time and distance, and are about half that of a non-share auto. A 1.5-km trip would cost around Rs 20.

Though such services are already popular in many countries including New York, London, Paris, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria and Uganda, it will be first-of-its-kind service in the town. While it has generated interest among the youth, a straw poll by Chandigarh Newsline found that women are not enthusiastic about it.

“It is slightly uncomfortable sitting behind an unknown man on a bike. It is different in a cab, or an auto, as we are still in the back seat, but I would be hesitant to take a bike,” said Neelam Sharma, 32, a radiographer in the Sector 6 hospital. She also said a two-wheeler was more accident-prone than any other form of transport.

With recent awareness about prevention of crime against women, women have also become cautious in choosing options for public transport. “It will work good for men, especially boys commuting from colleges to their houses, but girls would be hesitant. Though it will be a faster option, I would still prefer to walk, or take a cab or a bus,” said Anamika Dhiman, 25, a resident.

Echoing the sentiments, councillor Lily Bawa said that women would be wary of taking a bike since there had been so many cases of bike-borne chain snatchers. “Women would be hesitant to take a bike ride with some man to reach home. Unlike autos and cabs, the maneuverability of bike makes it a less favourable option. I would prefer an e-rickshaw to a bike ride,” she said.

That might change if the Buddy is a woman. “If a woman drives a Baxi, then I can consider it,” said Neelam.
However, the company owners said there were no plans yet to introduce women drivers. Rana said there would also be safety issues for women drivers with male passengers. Both Rana and Johri said the Baxi had received a warm reception from both sexes in Gurgaon, where it was launched on December 1.

“We held surveys among women before launching it. The driver’s antecedents will be verified, he will be in a clean uniform, wear a helmet, and also carry a helmet for the passenger. He will also give a wet wiper to his passenger to clean his/her face. Moreover, in a place like Panchkula, where there are not many travel options for local destinations, the Baxi will be convenient, affordable and fast,” said Johri.

Highlighting that inhibitions were expected but would be addressed with time, Rana said, “We have also provided an SOS button in the mobile app to report cases of emergency. This button will be available for the driver as well for his safety.”

In addition to mandatory police verification checks for Buddies, they are made to undergo a defensive driving course and trained in handling customers. Technology will be used to monitor the Buddy in real time, on parameters like speed, location, and safety. The driver’s name and contact number will be written on his uniform.

How it works

Passengers can get a Baxi from any of the Baxi stands across the town. They will need a token to start the meter, which they can get by giving a missed call at 07799-777-848. Doing this ensures that they are covered by the insurance policy and can be tracked in case of emergency. Passengers can also request for a pick-up from a specific location by using the Baxi app (available on the Google Play Store). The fare will be calculated on the Buddy app using GPS distance.

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