Chinese bike sharing unicorn Ofo started the new year with a bang. The startup today announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to support the Pune Cycle Plan – a comprehensive bicycle master plan for integrated city-wide cycle tracks.
As part of the plan, the Pune civic body intends to create the necessary infrastructure for cycle tracks and a city-wide cycle network. The aim is to bring in seamless public bicycle sharing across the city, and promote it as an active mode of transport.
A press release shared by Ofo says mobility has been an issue in Pune and hasn't kept pace with the city’s growth. With this partnership, Ofo aims to provide a healthier, quicker, and greener alternative to motor vehicles.
“Our station-free bike-sharing concept has improved the transportation in cities across the world. Our mission is to solve the ‘last mile’ transportation problem in India’s urban areas, and we see immense potential in Pune for Ofo’s convenient, affordable and low carbon way of travel,” says Rajarshi Sahai, Director of Public Policy and Communications aat Ofo.
Founded in 2014, Ofo is one of the largest “station-free” bike-sharing platforms operated through an online mobile application. Ofo’s bike-sharing system requires no fixed docking stations, providing significant flexibility for users to find and return bikes.
Rajashri adds that Pune’s approach to get global bicycle sharing operators to bring in the bicycles, while the city builds infrastructure and parking to meet deployment is an example in role clarity for the public and private sector.
As per PMC’s Environment Status Report 2016-17, with 700 private vehicles being added to the city's roads every day, its vehicle population is now equal to that of its human population. This rapid rise in vehicular traffic has led to air pollution, health problems, accidents, and wastage of time in traffic congestion.
Kunal Kumar, Commissioner of the Pune Municipal Corporation, said in the press release that along with partnerships for public bicycle sharing with partners like ofo, the civic body is creating an infrastructure where cycling is safe, attractive, comfortable and the travel mode of choice.
“As more people switch to bikes from cars for short-distance travel, apart from getting exercise, they will also help reduce traffic congestion, fuel consumption, and air pollution,” he said.
Ofo currently has operations in over 250 cities across 20 countries, and a user base of over 200 million users with more than 6 billion efficient, convenient and green rides per year.
In July 2017, Ofo completed a Series E funding of $700 million led by Alibaba, Hony Capital, and CITIC Private Equity, becoming the world’s biggest and most valued bike-sharing company.
The team claims that from April to June 2017, users worldwide accumulated a riding distance of over 1.2 billion km, reducing 84 million litres of fuel consumption, and 265,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Bike-sharing seems to be the next big thing in India. Ola announced the launch of Ola Pedal, its cycle sharing option, currently in the pilot stage at the IIT Kanpur campus. Last month, Zoomcar launched PEDL, its cycle sharing vertical in Bengaluru’s HSR Layout, and the company is looking to expand this across the city, and the country.
Amit Gupta, Co-Founder of InMobi, last month launched Yulu, a bike sharing platform. Mobycy also launched a dockless bike sharing platform and raised a $500,000 seed funding. A few weeks ago, Wheelstreet launched its dockless bike sharing platform.
Apart from this, in September 2016, Chartered Speed, an Ahmedabad-based transport company, is believed to have entered into a partnership with Nextbike, a Germany-based bike-sharing startup, and is set to launch a digital bicycle sharing platform across 100 cities.
Like Pune, as several civic authorities and governments look to promote bike sharing, 2018 might just be the year of bike sharing.