Kochi: Kochiites, get ready to hop on the saddle! The Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), in association with the Smart City Mission, will launch a bicycle sharing service as a new year gift for the city dwellers.
As many as 1,000 geared bicycles will be made available in the city with the key objective of providing first and last mile of commuting services for the riders opting for metro as a preferable mode of transport. The project will be implemented jointly by Hero Cycles Limited and You Know Tech Company.
KMRL's bicycle rental service is already in operation offering last-mile connectivity to commuters. The facility, with as many as 50 cycles, is available at the metro stations between the Aluva and Maharaja's College stretch and at Marine Drive. Though the response was indeed less than the expected level, many commuters use the service to cover short distances on a daily basis.
While the KMRL's bicycles can be used for free, to go anywhere within city limits, rides under the new initiative will be charged at Rs 4 per hour. The rider can pick and drop the bike at the metro stations or the legal parking area.
The idea is to give people a choice of transportation to ensure convenience as they no longer would have to hang on the footboard of viciously crowded buses or argue with autorickshaw drivers who demanded exorbitant fare. The cycles are designed to suit the needs of both male and female riders.
The project will be launched in Fort Kochi before the commencement of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. There will be 200 cycles and 20 docking stations at Fort Kochi and Mattancherry and two types of services will be on offer. Users can either pick up cycles deployed at racks along the stations or the ones equipped with smart-lock technology. The first service is operated with the OTP (one-time password) generation code technique in which the users do not have to come back to drop it off.
Cycles with smart-lock technology can be located using a smartphone app and unlocked by scanning a digital QR code. All cycles will be GPS-enabled to protect them from theft.
The cycles will be provided to the commuters at a price of Rs 4 per hour. Under the Rs 149 monthly plan, commuters can use the vehicle for half-an-hour a day. An additional charge of Rs 4 is applicable for every extra hour. Tyres will be puncture-proof and the users can adjust the saddle height for perfect pedalling. The GPS-based tracking system, which allows to easily track locations of each cycle, will stop users from damaging or unauthorised tampering or meddling with the vehicle.
The project team of the bicycle rental services is already in Kochi. They have reached an agreement with a number of cycle mechanics in the city to provide repair and alteration services. The cycles stored in racks will be repaired in the late evening hours. A system will also be put in place to mend glitches in a time-bound manner.
Cycles can be hired through the Kochi1 Mobile App. If the updation of the App is not completed by December, users can book vehicles using the executing firm's application.
Dedicated bicycle tracks
Traffic woes of Kochi are too well known but there is some good news in store for cycling enthusiasts of the city. Under the Smart City Project, eleven main roads and 126 approach roads in Kochi and West Kochi would be renovated. All the eleven roads will have wide footpaths and dedicated cycling lanes. Roads towards both sides will have bicycle tracks up to one kilometre from each metro station. The work on constructing footpaths between Aluva and Kaloor stations is in the final stage.
Renovation of junctions at Vyttila, Edappally, Aluva, and Kaloor is also fast progressing. Currently, hundreds of foreign tourists are making use of the bicycle rental services for sightseeing in Fort Kochi every day.
In Kochi, cycling has so far been popular among only fitness enthusiasts. Now, the city residents and even tourists have an opportunity to use an eco-friendly transportation mode for short trips, be it for shopping or commuting to work.