Given the limited avenues of public transport open to those Mumbaikars not working from home, 'bike taxis' have emerged as the newest, safest and pocket-friendly mode of commute for them.
Officials of the player firms said that in the last three months, this service has witnessed a surge in the number of passengers and new riders eager to join their platform. Amongst the three, Rapido is the only dedicated aggregator for two-wheeler taxi services in India, while both Ola and Uber provide bike taxis alongside conventional cab services.
Rapido operates a fleet of more than 70,000 bike taxis across the nation
"During the months of lockdown, there has been a surge in demand for bike taxis not just in Mumbai but also across India. In Mumbai alone the demand have exceeded by 200 per cent atleast" stated an official of a bike aggregator service.
The tarriff per kilometre in a bike taxi ranges from Rs 5-7, whereas that for a four-wheeler ranges from Rs 9-13. On top of the base amount, a bonus fare ranging between Re 1 and Rs 2 per minute is levied on the final tab of four-wheeler cabs. But those using bike taxis are exempt from this charge.
"Another reason why many people have switched to the bike taxis is because of the open air ride. In taxis, it often gets uncomfortable inside, with ACs being non-operational throughout the ride," the official pointed out.
"Since we have introduced two-wheeler services, the registration of riders has surged drastically. Most of the applicants are youngsters who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic and are now looking for employment opportunities," said a city official for a global transport aggregator.
Another official added, the introduction of two-wheelers had not only opened a new avenue for commuters, but had also become a major employment opportunity for many people.
"My office commute in an autorickshaw from Malad to Goregaon, cost me around Rs 80-120. In a bike cab, it costs me not more than Rs 75 and it's also faster," said Arvind Desai, employee of a private firm, who recently made the switch to bike taxis.
"Even when there is a traffic jam, two wheelers can push through narrow gaps and this makes the commute faster when travelling alone," said Akash Jain, an architect.
However, according to transport expert Vidyadhar Date, while bike taxis may have emerged as an alternative amid the pandemic outbreak, these couldn't be considered a long-term solution.
"Bike taxi services can't be availed by those from the lower-income groups. The government should now give serious thought to upgrading the city's road transport network, this will make public transport service more accessible and eco-friendly" Date told The Free Press Journal.