Bhopal’s Public Bicycle Sharing Project: Best example of improved urban transport system

Cities would be encouraged to explore the possibility of a public bicycle program, where people can rent a bicycle for use in specially designated areas

-National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), 2006

This vision as enshrined under the NUTP, 2006 became the background for introducing the public bicycle sharing programme in Bhopal. The concept of a public bicycle sharing program is being earnestly endorsed by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India.

Non-Motorized Transport and its associated infrastructure is a field of growing importance in cities and for ULBs. Management of footpaths, pedestrian safety, cycle rickshaw management, Bicyclists and bicycles promotion, bicycle track development and maintenance are just some of the components that form the NMT category of urban transport.

In this regard, the MoUD constituted a Bicycle Promotion Committee which held its 1st meeting on 26.07.2011 in New Delhi. The primary motive of this committee was to emphasize the importance of introducing bicycles within a self-sustainable Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS) scheme framework in urban areas.

Taking a cue from these efforts of the MoUD, Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) initiated a Public Bike Sharing Scheme to be implemented in Bhopal city in September 2011. The scheme was foreseen to act as a feeder service to the Bhopal Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in the areas with high BRT ridership potential. Public Bike Sharing scheme was considered to act as a mode for last mile connectivity to the residents who commute daily for work, education and recreational activities in Bhopal city.

Bhopal Municipal Corporation appointed Urban Mass Transit Company Ltd (a Joint Venture between MoUD and ILFS) as a consultant for the same. UMTC was awarded the mandate after a competitive bidding process held in Bhopal in August 2011.

In order to build a complete network of bicycle docking stations, additional link points were added to the network. The type of sites included popular market areas, bus interchange points, universities and institutions, parks and open spaces, and important activity centres along the BRT corridor.

According to Chandramauli Shukla, CEO, Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited (BSCDCL), the aim of the project is to “promote a bike culture” in the congested city where government transport, private vehicles and commercial mini-buses clog the roads every day (reported by Indian Express).

Separate cycling corridors in Bhopal. Credits: Indian Express

Under the project, registered users will be able to use facility for a fee by picking up and dropping off bicycles at any of the 50 docking stations. A central control room will monitor the availability of bicycles and three distribution vans will move them from one station to another to ensure availability.

A one-year pass for Rs. 999 will allow a user to use a bicycle for free for the first 30 minutes followed by a 50 per cent cut in prescribed rates for other users. Those without a pass will have to pay Rs. 10 for 30 minutes, Rs. 20 for one hour, Rs. 40 for 90 minutes and Rs. 120 for a two-hour ride. Registered users can also access the service through smartphones, customer cards and other feature phones.

Bhopal has been selected for the redevelopment model under the smart cities mission.

Though, the greatest fear of the BMC, in the long run will be to cover the costs of the project. The low acceptance and less awareness about such sustainable transport options make it difficult for the government to make project financially viable for the longer period of time.

Still, Bhopal has set one of the best examples for improved urban governance and efficient public transport system. Such arrangement does not only provide environment sustainability, but also provides a healthy choice to the public at large. Such models can help effectively in ensuring a smooth public transport system and reduce the environmental risks. The city planners and government must be encouraged to take more such steps, which ensures a smart and innovative living.

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