New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Stuck in huge, peak-hour jams, have you ever envied two-wheelers easily winding their way through the densest of traffic? That’s perhaps why some private cab aggregators came up with the nifty idea of bike taxis. Unfortunately, the idea has stalled, having run smack into a regulatory wall.
It all started in March this year, when Uber and Ola launched bike-sharing services in Bengaluru, one of the most congested metros in the country, but the state government soon issued notices to the service providers for flouting rules. The companies had to roll back the services.
Bike taxis got into legal trouble because private vehicles cannot be used for commercial purposes under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 — also since the commuters are not insured. Hence the service not only attracts heavy fines but also risks the life of customers.
“Earlier this year we rolled out the pilot of uberMOTO in Bangalore — our first two-wheel ride-sharing service. We hit the pause on the pilot on May 20 to share our learning and work with the government to create modern rules for app-based motorbike services,” an Uber spokesperson told IANS.
After Bengaluru, the company launched its services in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). But here, too, uberMoto ran into legal trouble. Over 70 motorcycles were impounded. It faced similar consequences in Ahmedabad.
In its notice to Uber, Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) said plying of bikes with white number plates (private vehicles) was in violation of the law and punishable under various provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act — including Sections 192, 192A, 193, 196, and 199.
“Last week we impounded two motorcycles. There are around 400 bikes moving around in Gujarat. We found two motorcycles running illegally. We have suspended their registration for 90 days,” Dilip Yadav, Assistant Road Transport Officer, Ahmedabad, told IANS.
“A decision will be taken in the court,” he said, adding: “Since 1997, the registration of cabs is compulsory in Gujarat — whether a four-wheeler or two-wheeler.”
The RTO in Gurgaon issued two notices to Uber asking it to clarify why it allowed private bikes to be used commercially. An RTO official, requesting anonymity, told IANS that the motorcycle owners were assured by Uber they can use their personal bikes with white number plates.
“Uber provides technology services to independent providers of UberMOTO services (participants), on a strictly non-commercial basis,” said the supplement terms for riders under the UberMOTO platform.
“As part of this arrangement, you (riders) may request a participant for the sharing of his personal motor cycle for a predetermined journey, as specified by the Participant in the manner prescribed by the UberMOTO Facilitation Services.”
After the notices were served to Uber, it replaced all private bikes with commercial ones in Gurgaon. It shut its services in Bengaluru.
Ola also had to shut its operations in Bengaluru, a day after launching its bike taxi services, for not adhering to the Motor Vehicles Act. “As part of the pilot launch of Ola Bike in Gurgaon, the service is available to select customers in limited areas,” an Ola spokesperson said.
“Ola Bike operations in Gurgaon fulfill regulatory requirements like usage of only commercially registered, yellow number-plated vehicles and requisite insurance cover for the driver and pillion rider,” the official added.
“For Ola, respecting the established laws as well as safety and security of rider and pillion rider is paramount and we will not shirk from this responsibility,” he added.
Asked about Uber’s take on pillion riders’ insurance cover, the spokesperson said: “The product is designed to recover costs and is not for hire or reward. The insurance would depend on the kind of insurance the driver carries for his vehicle.”
From developments in the past few months, it is clear that bike taxis — also called cart bikes — will take some time to cross all hurdles in India and become a common sight as they are in some countries like Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Thailand and Sweden.
(Anand Singh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Aparajita Gupta can be reached at email@example.com)