Pune residents want bike taxi service to end auto rickshaw monopoly

Updated on Dec 14, 2022 11:23 PM IST

Amid auto rikshaw drivers undertaking an indefinite strike – the second time within a fortnight – demanding a ban against bike taxis, many commuters in the city said they would prefer later to end monopoly to avoid inconvenience

For passengers, the bike-taxi aggregator service embodies a reputation for cost-effective prices among a wide range of customers in Pune. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
For passengers, the bike-taxi aggregator service embodies a reputation for cost-effective prices among a wide range of customers in Pune. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
ByAditi Shekar and Shreemoyee Roychoudhury

Amid auto rikshaw drivers undertaking an indefinite strike – the second time within a fortnight – demanding a ban against bike taxis, many commuters in the city said they would prefer later to end monopoly to avoid inconvenience.

The monopoly as alleged by citizens, mostly youngsters, in this case, is by auto rikshaw drivers, who often resort to trip rejection or overcharging.

At the same time, popular demand from commuters and the need for employment from drivers is expanding bike taxi aggregators’ business in the city even as Pune Regional Transport Office (RTO) has asked for shutting the service in view of no permission.

For passengers, the bike-taxi aggregator service embodies a reputation for cost-effective prices among a wide range of customers in Pune. The quality has drawn the attention of college students looking for cheaper alternatives in their daily travel expenditure.

“The convenience provided by bike taxis with avoidance of traffic as a major advantage is high. As a solo traveller, I relied on bike taxi services more frequently. In terms of legality, I would prefer to travel in Pune by bike taxi due to the efficiency of bikes. Some operators’ availability in various areas is limited, which is exacerbated by trip cancellations. During the recent auto union strikes, there was the unavailability of bikes causing a major inconvenience,” said Mohit Krishna, a student at Flames University.

For many, bike taxi has been a pocket-friendly and favourable option, that does not report rejection or overcharging.

According to the bike-taxi aggregator, each driver or captain receives a daily wage of 300 to 500 a day for short-distance travels such as three kilometres to eight kilometres.

A former employee rider of bike taxi aggregator Rapido who wished to remain anonymous explained, “The customer base for Rapido drivers is different from that of Auto rickshaw drivers. We stay near college campuses for commuters to board effectively. A single person would choose a bike-taxi for travelling small distances than pay higher amounts of money.”

While the Bombay High Court has requested the Pune RTO to ‘reconsider’ Rapido’s licence grant, increased scrutiny from police and protests by auto-rickshaw unions have seen a drop in the number of drivers on the road.

Samadhan Vansode, a part-time driver employed by a bike taxi aggregator, said: “I operate between 7 pm to 11 pm and my customer base is mostly within the age range of 20-32 years, which largely include male commuters.”

Many women passengers said they find themselves troubled over the possibility of bike taxis closing their operations in the city, for the risk of availing lesser economical services and safety.

Lakshita Singh, a second-year MBA student from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC), elaborated: “For a distance of around four to six kilometres, Rapido’s charges were 40 per cent less compared to other players such as Ola and Uber. However, I stopped using the service because I felt an emotional connect with the auto-rickshaws who have told me that Rapido drivers are operating without a permit, in turn affecting the former’s business.”

Aarushi Sinha, a student at SIMC, said “Staying at a comparatively deserted place, away from the main city, it’s always a risk to travel alone. However, I’ve never faced any safety or comfort-related issue, not even during night nights or early morning. From a consumer point of view, since the cost of travelling in Pune is on the steeper side, it would be hard if Rapido services shut down.”

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