FIVE-HUNDRED GPS-enabled bicycles imported from Germany, 50 docking stations, two six-km-long red tracks and one ambitious initiative. The organisation behind Bhopal’s smart city project is hoping to unveil in March a Public Bike Sharing (PBS) project, which they claim is the “most authentic” one of its kind in the country. According to Chandramauli Shukla, CEO, Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited (BSCDCL), the aim of the project is to “promote a bike culture” in the congested city where government transport, private vehicles and commercial mini-buses clog the roads every day.
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Under the project, registered users will be able to use facility for a fee by picking up and dropping off bicycles at any of the 50 docking stations. A central control room will monitor the availability of bicycles and three distribution vans will move them from one station to another to ensure availability.
To begin with, the project will have two cycling tracks, five metres wide and with the existing BRT corridor in between. In the long term, the tracks will extend along the full 24-km BRT stretch from Misrod to Bairagarh on Bhopal’s outskirts.
Shukla said that the tracks are painted red to “mark them out clearly”. Later, another dedicated track will come up from Polytechnic junction to Bharat Mata Square, as part of a multi-lane Smart Road.
While laying the foundation stone for the 2.7-km long smart road early this month, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had set a nine-month target to finish the job. Though the road was conceived independent of PBS, it is expected to enhance the PBS project.
The Bhopal PBS project, a part of the Centre’s multiple Smart City proposals, started with a capital cost of Rs 2.95 crore. Adopting a new revenue model, the project plans to raise operating costs of Rs 6.7 lakh per month from membership, rental income, advertisement revenue, sponsorship contracts, parking fee and CSR funding, among others.
Shukla said operating costs will be incurred on communication, salaries, maintenance, damage and spare parts.
A one-year pass for Rs 999 will allow a user to use a bicycle for free for the first 30 minutes followed by a 50 per cent cut in prescribed rates for other users. Those without a pass will have to pay Rs 10 for 30 minutes, Rs 20 for one hour, Rs 40 for 90 minutes and Rs 120 for a two-hour ride. Registered users can also access the service through smartphones, customer cards and other feature phones.
The Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) has promised to reimburse 30-40 per cent of the operating costs incurred by the provider every three months, if the service meets the standard benchmarks. Shukla said the bicycles have been shipped from Germany and will reach Bhopal via Gujarat.
Acknowledging that the theft of bicycles and the GPS devices was a matter of concern, Shukla said that the PBS promises to remain open round the clock to tackle such issues.
Eight of the 50 docking stations will be located from the Advanced Materials and Process Research Institute (AMPRI), popularly known as RRL Tiraha, to Misrod, eight in MP Nagar, and ten each in Arera Colony and various tourist sites.
But former additional chief secretary (Industry) Satyaprakash, a cycling enthusiast, is not very optimistic about the success of the project. “They don’t have a network of tracks. Their focus is more on bikes than the workability of the idea,’’ said the bureaucrat. “People should feel confident about cycling. They have to be educated and motivated to use cycles… Unless people commit themselves to using cycles, the project will have little chance of succeeding,’’ said Satyaprakash, who is associated with the Green Planet Bicycle Riders’ Association.