Launched amid much fanfare in August last year, the public bike sharing project has fallen prey to vandals, leaving the agency managing it troubled.
Replete with modern features to make every ride a breeze, over 1,000 of the 2,500 pedal-assisted, hybrid e-bicycles made available so far are now in tatters.
The agency says the situation is dire as nearly 3,000 cases of vandalism have taken place over the past year, causing it losses worth ₹5 crore. Absence of advertisers to keep the project afloat is making matters worse.
Repeated incidents of vandalism have made maintenance a Sisyphean task, the agency claims. As a result, though the bicycles are available to ride, their baskets, locks, pedals and stands continue to remain damaged. Many don’t have air in tyres, while mudguards, bells and handle grips of several others have been stolen.
Not long ago, a video of a youth damaging one of the bicycles had come to fore. Eventually, police had arrested a 23-year-old BA student, who was seen in the video, and the 17-year-old boy who filmed him.
Extension of future launches sought
Backed against the wall due to huge losses, the firm has now requested for further extension to launch Phases 3 and 4 of the project, whose original roll-out was slated in April 2022. The agency has sought time to start Phase 3 in December 2022 and Phase 4 in April 2023. The first extension was allowed till September 2022.
The Board of Directors of Chandigarh Smart City Limited will be holding a meeting on October 7 to take a call on the request.
After launching 1,250 bicycles each in Phase 1 in August 2021 and Phase 2 in February 2022, the firm plans to launch an equal number in the next two phases, taking the total to 5,000.
The number of docking stations, which currently stands at 310, will also be pushed up to 617.
DV Manohar, chairman of SmartBike Mobility, that is managing the project, said, “Despite the huge losses and repeated cases of vandalism, we do not want to back out from the project in Chandigarh, as we started it. So, we have requested the authorities to extend the launch dates for the next phases. The bicycles are equipped with multiple features for ease of travel at minimum fare, yet they are being used recklessly and damaged, denting our efforts to keep the project going.”
Anindita Mitra, CEO of Chandigarh Smart City Limited, said a board meeting was planned on October 7, where a call on allowing the extension of launch dates will be taken.
60 of 310 docking stations relocated
Earlier, concerned over paucity of advertisers, the agency had requested relocation of 60 of the existing 310 docking stations, which was permitted by authorities, as the contract allows for a change in location of 10% of the total docking stations (617).
As the project is heavily dependent on revenue generated from renting out advertisement spaces at the docking stations, the firm had sought change of location.
1,200 rides per day
In the past year, more than one lakh users have downloaded the official mobile app to book the bicycles. On average, around 1,200 users ride the bicycles per day, while the number goes up to 1,600 on public holidays.
The bicycles can be rented for ₹10 for half an hour and members can rent it for ₹5. One can register as a member for a year by making a one-time payment of ₹500.
The bicycles can be rented for ₹10 for half-an-hour and members can rent it for ₹5. One can register as a member for a year by making a one-time payment of ₹500.