How to develop bike-taxis (beyond issuing clarifications)

Despite increasing demand, bike- taxis have encountered resistance from some state governments and transport unions.
Despite increasing demand, bike- taxis have encountered resistance from some state governments and transport unions.

Summary

Bike-taxis offer a cost-effective mode of transportation, particularly for lower and middle-income groups.

Bike-taxis could be an answer to our urban mobility woes but often face regulatory hurdles. While the Centre has recently clarified their legality, state-level concerns about licensing and regulation persist. What needs to be done to make them more viable? Mint explains:

Why could bike-taxis be significant?

Bike-taxis offer a cost-effective mode of transportation, particularly for lower and middle-income groups. With fares of 8-10 per km, they compete well with traditional auto-rickshaws, catering to first- and last-mile connectivity needs. Their affordability and accessibility make them useful for urban mobility, especially in congested areas where other modes of transport may be scarce. They’ve so far found most popularity in Tier II and III towns and cities. But a Localcircles survey said 44% of Delhi residents and/or their family or staff had used a bike taxi at least once in 2022-23.

What challenges do bike-taxis encounter?

Despite increasing demand, bike- taxis have encountered resistance from some state governments and transport unions. Bans in Maharashtra, Delhi, Kerala and Tamil Nadu (some now resolved by way of new motor vehicle aggregator policies, like in Delhi), highlight regulatory inconsistencies based on states’ differing interpretations of the Central Motor Vehicle Act (CMVR) with respect to the legality of bike-taxis, as well as concerns regarding improper licensing. These challenges hinder their widespread adoption, creating uncertainty for operators, riders and users.

How do different states view bike-taxis?

Goa, Haryana, Gujarat and West Bengal have formulated aggregator policies for bike-taxis. Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka had banned them. In Delhi and Karnataka, aggregator policies now mandate a switch to electric bike-taxis. State-level policies are essential to address regulatory gaps in the bike-taxi ecosystem.

What role does a clarification play?

The roads ministry has issued a clarification saying motorcycles fall within the definition of contract carriage under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. While this provides legal clarity, the advisory says that “All states and UTs are advised to accept and process applications for contract carriage permits for motorcycles." Central government support will have to be supplemented with coordinated efforts at the state level to streamline regulatory processes and foster industry growth.

What is needed to grow bike-taxis?

A comprehensive framework addressing safety standards, licensing requirements, insurance provisions and environmental concerns will be essential. Resistance from taxi unions who worry about potential livelihood loss due to bike-taxis must be addressed. Concerns around safety, especially for women riders, must also be addressed by transport authorities as well as by aggregators. According to industry estimates, Ola, Uber and Rapido together completed 300 million bike-taxi rides in 2022.

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