04 Mar 2016 18:59 IST

The era of bike taxis is here

The question, however, is will those using traditional taxi service shift to the bike version?

Last year, I experienced Bengaluru’s rather infamous traffic. We were visiting my brother and his family, and all of us were on the way to a restaurant, less than two kilometre away from his house. It took us 40 minutes to reach our destination.

The next day, a 17 kilometre journey took us two-and-a-half hours! That is why announcements by Uber and Ola this week to start bike-taxis in India’s IT capital got me more excited than the recommendations of the Union Budget.

UberMOTO, the bike-service by the American multinational, will charge ₹3 per km, apart from ₹1 for every minute of the ride time. The home-grown unicorn, Ola’s rates are even more competitive, charging ₹2 for a km, and ₹1 per minute of ride time. It has a base charge of ₹30.

Will it work?

Bikes may not have worked for us last year when we were in Bengaluru, but if at least half of the car owners had opted to riding pillion on the bike-taxis, we would have reached the restaurant much sooner and avoided the rumblings of the stomach.

Chennai, at least as of now, doesn’t match up to the standard of its southern counterpart when it comes to traffic snarls, but it is fast catching up. If Uber and Ola extend their bike services to Chennai, I would jump on one as soon as possible. This would certainly make my commuting to office a little cheaper than driving my car; and more conducive to my monthly budget.

But the biggest relief would be avoiding driving during peak hours, which can be more stressful than watching Mohammad Amir bowling to Virat Kohli. Equally important would be the faster commute on a bike-taxi.

Not the first

Uber and Ola are not the first in the country to offer bike-taxis. A story by inc42.com says that six start-ups came up in 2016, offering similar services. One of them, Rideji.com, even offers courier services within a city. Baxi.taxi provides each customer with a standard kit — hairnet, helmet and a wet wipe after a journey. Another start-up, Bikxie, has an allied service exclusively for women, called Bikxie Pink.

Only-for-women bike-taxis take care of the important security issue for female commuters. And it will make sense for both, Ola and Uber, to have a similar service. Few women will ride with a male bike-taxi driver, though he has been verified by the police, as promised by all the service providers.

Bike culture

Even otherwise, bike riders across India are known to over-speed, habitually jump traffic signals and have scant respect for other traffic rules. They also top the accident-rate list. Can the corporatised bike-taxis change that?

But given the bike culture in India, one of the largest markets in the world, a bike-taxi could prove extremely popular. The question, however, remains — will those using traditional taxis, shift to the bike version? It might be difficult, especially given the comforts of travelling in a car. But for shorter hauls, faster commute, and in the belief that availability of two-wheelers will be better than their bigger counterparts, bike-taxis might well turn out to be popular.