What’s the state of public bike sharing in Chennai, a few years after it was introduced?
Story so far: In 2019, the concept of public bike sharing was introduced by SmartBike with 250 cycles. It was adopted as part of the Chennai Smart City mission to help with last-mile connectivity. It runs on an app that provides a QR code to be scanned to unlock the bikes at the docking station. However, since its launch, it has faced several challenges.
- One of the challenges is that only people with a smartphone can use the service, creating a barrier to entry. In case of glitches in the app or poor network, the service becomes defunct.
- The instructions aren’t in the local language and are only in English. Also, payments can be done only online. An option to pay physically could be helpful.
Awareness: At the time of its launch, it was seen as a novelty, and some people did use it. Felix John, the Bicycle Mayor of Chennai, said SmartBikes could be considered public transport. However, service providers and the government should increase engagement with the public.
- The average ridership on weekdays was 1,000. Despite more than 1,100 bikes deployed at 109 spots, ridership has now reduced to 600 on weekdays and 900 on weekends.
- Service providers have also complained about increasing vandalism of the bikes. They’ve asked the government to set up CCTV cameras at the docking stations.
Future plans: There are plans to have more docking stations at 68 new locations and 20 across metro stations.