Bicycle-sharing schemes launched by private firms in central parts of the city in association with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) are proving popular among residents, mostly youngsters who are using them for short trips, exercising as well as out of novelty. Two firms — Bengaluru-headquartered Zoomcar (PEDL) and Chinese firm OFO — have started cycle rental services in the city by deploying about 1,200 cycles.
These cycles can be seen in areas like Aundh, Baner, Balewadi, Shivajinagar, Deccan, Pimple Saudagar and Pimple Nilakh. The cycles have also been deployed in educational institutions such as Savitribai Phule Pune University and College of Agriculture, Pune, which have sprawling campuses.
Civic officials said the PMC had signed MoUs with four service providers so far to support the ‘Pune Cycle Plan’, a masterplan for integrated citywide cycle tracks. While the companies as well as members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) of the PMC are happy with the response, instances of vandalism and damage by miscreants have fuelled concern among the firms.
Rajendra Jagtap, CEO of Pune Smart City Development Corporation Ltd, said the plan was to deploy about one lakh cycles in the next four months. The present deployment of 1,200 cycles was being used to gauge behaviorial and usage patterns, he added. PEDL has deployed 900 cycles while OFO has deployed 300. Later this week, 300 more cycles will be deployed in Magarpatta, said Jagtap.
“For us to be able to see any sort of impact, we will have to have at least one lakh cycles on road. The information received by us shows 10,000-12,000 trips booked on these two services everyday,” said Jagtap.
Mathen Thomas, Pune head of Zoomcar and PEDL, said the average trips go up on weekends from the weekday average of about five bookings per cycle. “We have deployed cycles on FC Road, JM Road, Law College Road, Prabhat Road as well as inside SPPU and College of Agriculture campuses. Cycles have also been deployed in Pimple Saudagar and Pimple Nilakh,” said Thomas.
While officials declined to share the number of instances of damage and vandalism, those in the know said at least 80-100 cycles need to be repaired due to damage caused either by vandalism or rough use. “This aspect was taken into account since the beginning of the plan. We have been able to identify the areas where the cycles are most susceptible to damage or theft attempts. We also have a very effective team on the ground to take care of issues,” said Thomas. He added that as all the cycles were GPS-enabled, locating and recovering stolen cycles was relatively easy.
Ranjit Gadgil of Parisar, who is on the Bicycle Advisory Committee, said while the number of cycles on roads was too small at present, the response was encouraging. “People have responded positively. Those who were fearing that the city is not ready for such an experiment have been proved wrong. The first step taken so far is satisfactory,” said Gadgil.
He said the PMC was pushing the cycle companies to get more cycles on the road and the firms too were happy with the response. “We should at least have 10,000 cycles on the road to actually gauge the response because what we have at present is just a toe in the water,” said Gadgil, adding that there was also a need for creating cycling infrastructure such as tracks, lanes and parking spaces.
“For all these purposes the Bicycle Advisory Committee has proposed to set up a separate cycle department in the PMC which will look after setting up and maintenance of these facilities. Until a dedicated staff and finance allocation are there, long-term changes can’t be brought about,” said Gadgil.
He said the issue of vandalism and damage to cycles was not a problem specific to India or Pune. “It was discussed in detail. This is not an India-specific issue. In other countries where such schemes were launched, vandalism was as high as 100 per cent in some cases. However, it’s important to reduce it by either taking action by liasoning with police and also creating awareness among the users and local communities,” said Gadgil.