In March 2016, when the Transport Department cracked down on illegal bike taxi services introduced by ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Ola in the city, it received a mixed response from the public.
A section of citizens who relied on this kind of public transport to get to work vehemently opposed the move, and criticised officials for living in the ‘stone age’ instead of adapting to modes of transport that could solve problems like last-mile connectivity.
Now, a State-appointed committee is revisiting bike-taxi services, and will be submitting a report to the government in 10 days on whether they should be allowed on Bengaluru’s roads. In the past, the department had contemplated giving companies licences to run bike taxis, but it was dropped abruptly.
This time, citizens and companies who were asked to stop offering the service are hoping for a positive response. Ajay Seth, MD, BMRCL, who is heading the committee said, “We are looking at the feasibility and desirability of bike taxis in the city. In the previous meeting, we received diverse opinions from stakeholders and experts. The committee will hold one more round of deliberations and submit its report to the government.”
For the department, the framing of rules and regulations to protect passengers is the priority. B. Basavaraju, principal secretary, Transport Department, said, “The committee is examining negative and positive impacts of allowing bike taxis in the city, and whether they will complement other modes of transport such as the metro, BMTC buses and more. The State government will take a call on the issue after receiving the report.”
In 2016, the department had foiled the attempts of taxi aggregators like Uber, Ola and other start-ups. Officials would often pose as passengers and impound two-wheelers, refer cases to court and slap fines from anywhere between Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 on vehicle owners for violations. At the time, officials said that the service was illegal as offenders had not obtained any licences to ferry passengers. “Private vehicles cannot be used for commercial gain. There is also the question of insurance security for pillion riders (passengers),” the official said.
Start-ups that had to shut await a positive outcome. One entrepreneur who had to close his bike taxi start-up after repeated crackdowns, said, “It is surprising that officials are taking so much time to take a stand on the issue. No one will come forward to invest in bike taxis as there is ambiguity in the existing rules.”
Others, too, concurred that the grey area in the law is a deterrent and cited Hyderabad as a more accommodating city. “Officials had earlier maintained that if rules are framed for bike taxis, auto unions would oppose the same. Considering the growing traffic woes in the city, people should be given the option of various modes of transport,” the entrepreneur added.