Electric vehicles are taking over the streets; be it buses, cars or auto rickshaws. The BEST too is using electric buses taking its total to 125 buses and has setup charging stations. The railways are setting up charging stations for these e-vehicles outside railway stations and even battery swapping facilities. However, the Transport Department and RTOs are worried about the increasing use of e-bikes that are coming up across the city which is now seen at Bandra, Kurla and Bandra-Kurla Complex. In fact these e-bike services are expected to be extended to the other parts of city and suburbs in a week’s time.
The difference between other modes of electric vehicles and e-bikes is not in its system but in the Act governing them. At present, the e-bikes are considered as non-motorised transport which doesn’t fall under the Motor Vehicles Act. The officers from Regional Transport Offices said that in their meetings and discussions with other government bodies; they have discussed about these e-bikes moving around and plans are in place to extend its services to other parts of the city and suburbs as well.
The problem here is that people riding them zip through the traffic like a regular two wheeler. “Two wheeler accidents remain to be a big concern as bikers comprise of 41 percent of total deaths from road accidents. And these e-bikes don’t have the necessary protective gears and people ride around with ease even in traffic,” said a RTO officer. “We are working on amendments in Rules as far as non-motorised vehicles are concerned.”
As per the latest figures released in January as part of Road Safety Drive; in 2019, there were 210 deaths of pedestrians followed by 183 deaths involving two wheeler riders. The e-bikes running at BKC has a top speed of 25 kmph; the average speeds of vehicles during traffic hours are lesser than this.
“These e-bikes are non-motorised modes of transport. We understand the problem on ground and will see what steps can be taken,” said Avinash Dhakne, Maharashtra Transport Commissioner.
Coincidentally, Yulu bikes that’s operating in BKC, has seen considerable demand from public. In January they saw an average of 1,000 trips daily. Since the time they started almost 5 months ago; there have been almost 26,000 users of these e-bikes who travelled 4.72 lakh kms in these many days after completing 78,800 trips leading to reduction of 47 tonnes of carbon emissions only in BKC.
Meanwhile, the Central Railway and Tata Power, on February 9, started battery charging stations outside railway stations. In the first phase, key railway stations have been lined up including CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus), Thane, Dadar, Parel and Byculla for which work orders have already been floated. The second phase will cover the next set of stations including Kurla LTT (Lokmanya Tilak Terminus), Bhandup, Panvel and Kurla. Areas at the entry-exit points of railway stations which have parking facility have been earmarked for the charging stations as per availability.
In the past, Transport department had refused to give permission to bike taxis who had applied to operate in Mumbai but were shut down. Recent transport department statistics show that in the state of Maharashtra, electrical cars and scooters registration rose from 1,459 in 2017-18 to 7,400 in 2019-20, a very healthy growth of 405 per cent. In Mumbai, the figure jumped from 46 to 672, a staggering 1,360 percent.