A public bike-sharing scheme launched to much fanfare in Chandigarh, just over a year old, is in urgent need of repair. With skyrocketing fuel prices, more and more people are turning to bike racks – around 1,200 people use the system every day – only to be greeted with faulty bikes and an app that works in spurts .
The project was launched on December 10, 2020, with the aim of providing 5,000 bicycles to residents at a nominal fee of Rs 5 for half an hour for members and Rs 10 for non-members. The Indian Express team cycled through the city and discovered the problems that threaten to derail this system.
Subscription not available
Although the Smart Bike app promises an annual subscription, it does not allow you to subscribe. Try as much as you want, but the app does not allow you to buy this subscription which guarantees a half price of Rs 5 for half an hour.
Bikes in poor condition
There are several issues with the condition of the bikes. The QR codes of some bikes in sector 27-C (PBS station, HDFC bank) had been torn, making it difficult for users to scan the code. In one case, even after scanning the code, the bike did not unlock and the money was deducted. This was the case with the yellow bikes at the station near the lake in sector 42.
The red bicycles, which run on battery power, are often discharged. The team retrieved a bike from sector 44 and cycled to sector 19, but the bike did not load.
The bike seats in Sector 28 D (PBS Station, Ram Leela Park, Sector 28 D) were in poor condition making it difficult for the rider to ride. “The condition of the bikes is surely an issue to think about. I’ve seen (red) e-bikes that have to be operated manually. On some bikes the tires are misaligned, the gears are broken or the brakes don’t work properly. The yellow bikes have rubber tires that wear out quickly. This causes huge discomfort,” said Kamleshwar Singh, a regular user of smart bikes.
Poorly maintained docking stations
No less than 600 docking stations are present in the UT, many of which are unattended. The Express found that some stands of these stations are obstructed by stones and vehicles like in sector 28D (PBS station, Pal Dhaba/sector 28D and Kotak Mahindra Bank, sector 7C). There are trees growing between two bike racks making it difficult for the cyclist to park.
No grievance system
What’s worse is that residents have no complaints redress system. The number given on the app is rarely tracked and the executive is unable to fix the issue of the app deducting money without unlocking the bike. Smart City Managing Director NP Sharma asked the Express team to call 0172278200 for any grievances but it turned out to be invalid.
GM blames vandals, gives invalid helpline
Asked about the problems with the docking stations, NP Sharma, General Manager of Smart City, which is in charge of this operation, said: “We have a regular maintenance system for these bikes. We deployed cars to repair and replace faulty bikes.”
Sharma blamed vandalism by people for the poor condition of the bikes. “They don’t see them as their own and mismanage them.” I will inform the company about this problem and try to find a solution.
Sharma said users should call 0172278200 to resolve their issues, but the number turned out to be invalid.