Ola launches bicycle sharing service 'Pedal' for short distance trips

Photo: @natrajsin Twitter handle
After cabs, autorickshaws, motorcycles and buses, India’s leading ride-hailing service Ola is introducing bicycles on its platform to help customers complete the final leg of their journey within large college and office campuses.

The company launched Ola Pedal, a bicycle sharing service, on Friday, saying it will soon be introduced across several cities where it runs its cab business. For starters, Ola will focus on making cycles available on college campuses, residential townships and tech parks.

"We are piloting Ola Pedal in various campuses, to begin with. With superior technology and availability to book on the same Ola app, which is used by millions of Indians on a daily basis, Ola Pedal will go a long way in solving larger issues like pollution and congestion in our cities, especially for short distance trips,” the company said in a statement.

In a video announcing Ola Pedal, the company says customers will be able to locate and book cycles near them. The video also says Pedal will utilise an “Aadhaar integrated solution” with the visuals of a user unlocking the bicycle with their fingerprint.

Upon finishing their ride, customers can simply lock the cycle using the smart lock, which Ola says does not require the bike to be left at a docking station. The company says it will utilise machine learning algorithms to ensure cycles are available where customers need them.

The cycles themselves will be manufactured in India, with Ola advertising them with features such as an anti-slip chain, alloy frame, puncture proof tyres and will also give users the ability to track their status while riding the cycles.

There have been several past attempts for bicycle sharing in India, several of which shut shop before they even took off. Companies such as Ola and Zoomcar are now looking to introduce technology into the mix to eliminate some of the pain points of bicycle sharing such as non-availability and inaccessibility.

Trin Trin, a bike sharing service started as a public-private partnership in Mysuru, has seen some success, which is getting the authorities in Bengaluru to look into a similar concept. The biggest issues they say is theft and users not returning bikes to their docking stations. However, Trin Trin says it, too, is using technology such as GPS tracking and automatic locking docking stations to solve some of the problems.

While platforms such as Trin Trin are solving some of the problem, it could really pay to have a well-funded firm such as Ola get into the game. The company recently closed a $1.1 billion funding round led by Tencent, along with participation from its leading investor Softbank.

“We are seeing massive interest in Ola Pedal from campuses and cities across the country and we are working on expanding the scope of this offering in the weeks ahead,” the company added.

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