The Karnataka transport department Tuesday said it will soon issue a licence to Wicked Ride, the parent company of Bounce, to operate electric bike taxi services in the state. The state government has fixed the fare at Rs 25 for 5 km and Rs 50 for 10 km. The E-bike taxi services will be permitted to operate under the Karnataka Electric Bike Taxi Scheme, 2021.
According to officials at Bounce, the company applied for the licence to operate e-bike taxis a year ago, after the government notified the e-bike taxi scheme in 2021. The transport department Tuesday held a discussion with Bounce and Blu Smart, regarding the application for a licence to operate e-bike taxis and e-ride-sharing services in the state. According to sources, other car and bike rental service companies were also part of different meetings with regard to licensing issues.
However, a senior transport official told indianexpress.com: “We will officially provide the licence and announce the operations of e-bike taxis in the next two-three days. The e-bike taxi operators will get a licence after they comply and submit the required documents as per the state’s e-bike taxi scheme. The Karnataka State Transport Authority chairman will take a final call on the same. After which, the operators will be given time to prepare for rolling out their services…”
According to the e-bike taxi scheme, the licence will be valid for a period of five years from the date of issue. It also mandates that the distance between the origin and the destination trip shall not be more than 10 km, among other stipulations.
Bounce officials stated that under the e-bike taxi service, the company will introduce a new type of scooter and will also allow women riders to be part of the service.
M Manjunath, president of Adarsha Auto and Taxi Driver’s union, said: “We vehemently oppose this decision of the state government. It is clearly against the interests of poor autorickshaw drivers. Already, apps like Rapido have destroyed the livelihoods of auto-rickshaw drivers by operating illegally. The introduction of e-bike taxis with such low fares is going to devastate the auto drivers’ livelihood further.”
Dr Ashish Verma, a Bengaluru-based mobility expert, said: “The introduction of e-bike taxis has its own advantages and disadvantages. While the service can enhance the last and first-mile connectivity from metro stations, reduce pollution, and encourage public transportation, among other factors… Road fatalities and safety concerns still haunt the efficient use of two-wheelers in the country. Also, the e-bike taxi services can further dent the livelihood of auto drivers. In addition, covering long distances might also be a problem.”
Meanwhile, the transport department gave a month’s time to cab aggregators to comply with Karnataka On-Demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, 2018. Cab aggregators Ola and Uber applied for renewal of licences for their cab services Tuesday.
According to the transport department, cab aggregators were yet to comply with rules like installing panic buttons, GPS-enabled tracking, and setting up a control room and grievance cell, among others.
The transport department has given Ola a month’s time, and Uber one-and-a-half months’ time to comply with the rules, until which their licenses won’t be renewed. However, the dispute on auto services ‘illegally’ operated by them has continued to be a sub-judice matter.