Bikes (4) Cycle sharing in India and China

Hangzhou bike sharing system

In 2011 the India Government decided to launch a National Public Bicycle Scheme to promote cycling as the last mile connectivity in 10 cities. On average, 43,7% of indian households had a bicycle in 2001, a figure that rose to 46% in urban areas. The National Government issued a draft toolkit for public cycle sharing systems that studies such systems in other countries, mainly Europe and China.

The context in India is quite different from that in western countries; most cities have no dedicated bike lanes, and the cost of all the items that are used to set up such a system are different, as can be easily understood comparing the purchasing power of the average citizen. China has different situation as investment on capital infrastructures has been stronger, but shares some similaritudes with India (relatively low purchasing power but high tech local firms able to set up advanced control systems). According to the India Public Cycle Sharing Toolkit, the capital costs including all the systems from bike stations to control center and the bikes themselves are as follows:

  • Hanghzhou: Rs 64.000 per bicycle (891 euros)
  • Guangzhou: Rs 58.000 per bicycle (808 euros)
  • Pune (Cycle Chalao estimates 2012): Rs 54.000 per bicycle (752 euros)
  • Ahmedabad (IDTP estimate): Rs 77.000 per bicycle (1.073 euros)

Yearly operating costs per cycle are estimated as follows:

  • Hanghzhou: Rs 9.900 per bicycle (137 euros)
  • Guangzhou: Rs 13.600 per bicycle (184 euros)
  • Pune (Cycle Chalao estimates 2012): Rs 24.000 per bicycle (334 euros) (costs are higher as the system is not fully automated).

The usage fee structure proposed in the toolkit is:

  • Less than 30 minutes: free
  • 30 minutes- 1 hour: Rs 5 (7 euro cents)
  • 1-2 hours: Rs 10 (14 euro cents)
  • More than two hours: Rs 15 (21 euro cents)

According to the toolkit, a high quality cycle sharing system with 5.000 cycles can be established in an indian city for Rs 40 crore (5,5 million euros). Just in order to compare costs, Velib, the Parisian system, started in 2007 with 7.000 bikes and start-up cost estimated at 140 million euros (paid by the firm that got the external advertisement concession for the whole city, not the public administration); a 1 hour ride costs 1 euro.

A bicycle from Cycle Chalao!, a bike sharing system set up in Mumbai and Pune in 2010 that has ceased to exist since, but has provided an interesting local experience.