The bicycle sharing scheme launched by the Pune Municipal Corporation with help of private firms has hit a hurdle after several cycles were vandalised on a regular basis, following which service providers withdrew them and shut operations on one of the campuses in the city.
The PEDL, a subsidiary of Zoomcar, which has deployed over 900 bicycles in the central parts of city, has withdrawn all 50 cycles from the College of Agriculture, Pune, citing severe and frequent damage from people staying close to the college.
The service was launched on the 110-year-old campus on January 24 amid much fanfare by city Mayor Mukta Tilak. Four parking decks were set up on the campus with 50 cycles made available to be used by students and visitors. All cycles have been withdrawn by PEDL.
“Everyday, as many as eight-ten cycles were being damaged. These included attempts to pull off locks, severing baskets and damaging the tyres. Often the locks were removed and cycles were taken out of the college campus to residential areas. We had to visit the places and retrieve them. Considering all this, the service has been stopped at College of Agriculture,” said a supervisor with PEDL.
The service started by the PEDL and OFO, in association with the Pune Smart City Mission, seems to have become popular, mostly among youngsters who are using them for taking short trips, exercising, as well as a novelty. A total of 1,500 cycles have been deployed at various locations in the city, including ‘Smart City’ areas of Aundh, Baner and Balewadi and Shivajinagar, Deccan, Pimple Saudagar, Magarpatta and Pimple Nilakh. Bicycles were also given to two educational institutions, Savitribai Phule Pune University and the College of Agriculture, Pune.
Officials said the PMC signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with four service providers so far to support the Pune Cycle Plan- a master plan for integrated city-wide cycle tracks. Two more service providers are likely to join in soon.
Dr Somnath Mane, a member of the faculty at the institute who liasoned with the PEDL, said there was discussion between the college authorities and the PEDL executives about the vandalism.
“In fact, it was us who had informed them that miscreants from Khaire Wadi and N T Wadi were trying to damage the locks and take away the cycles. We ourselves tried to dissuade children who would often do this during early morning or evening hours. Last week, in a single day, around 40 cycles were damaged following which the private firm decided to withdraw,” said Mane. He added that the cycles were extremely popular among students, faculty members and senior citizens who visit the campus for morning walks.
“The PEDL authorities told us that they will seek a joint meeting with the Smart City Mission authorities and us to find ways to restart the service on the campus,” said Mane.