‘To commute or not to commute’ is a choice everyone is struggling with, amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
For the better part of 2020, lockdown and containment zones restricted the movement of everything except essential deliveries. While most states are taking a call on lockdown in 2021, emergency movement of people, essential workers, and goods still continues with mandatory safety precautions in mind. So how are these commuters running from pillar to post? What are the transport options available to the common man in case of emergencies? Let’s have a look.
The safest mode of transport seems to be your private car as you can control who you are riding with. However, if we consider the major strata of the society that does not own a vehicle, it becomes clear that safe and affordable ride-sharing options are extremely necessary during this time.
In the current scenario, 3-wheeler auto rickshaws and bike taxis are the most commonly preferred commute options due to their affordability and safety. Commuters understand that the likelihood of contracting the virus while riding a cab versus while sharing a bike taxi is comparatively higher, due to the limited touchpoints in a bike taxi.
Why bike taxis?
Bike taxis, with their deep reach and adaptive model, are proving to be the most affordable, accessible, and safe option.
On an average, a bike taxi ride is at par with public transportation. It offers commuters a much more convenient, accessible, and affordable option. To add on to these positives, safety is another major plus for this mobility solution.
Bike taxi companies have innovatively renovated their working models with safety regulations in mind. The usage of protective masks, introduction of back shields, sanitising bikes before and after a ride, and contactless payments have been made mandatory rules to abide by. New policies have been introduced where the company provides free cancellation of rides if Captains (driver partners) or customers are without a mask, ensuring that all people concerned are safe and secure.
Bike taxi companies are ensuring the compliance of safety measures by leveraging technology and customer feedback. For example, to ensure masks are used on rides by both customer and captains, companies now ask for a selfie of the person to verify claims and cancel rides for non-compliance of measures.
Another significant advantage of having a well-regulated bike taxi ecosystem is it creates a large-scale employment opportunity, which is much needed in our country at the moment. This mobility ecosystem is also in alignment with the prime minister’s vision on the future of mobility in India.
It is sure to flourish, given the fact that nearly 70 percent of vehicles on Indian roads are two-wheelers at the moment and cost-effective bike taxis are bridging the last-mile connectivity gaps across many cities in India.
Bike taxis are also beneficial in addressing the traffic congestion on Indian roads as they use existing assets already on roads and make use of the empty pillion seat to transport customers.
Safety first while commuting
While people are still being advised to stay at home, essential service workers and food deliveries are still operating and they may have no choice but to use ride-sharing services. Bike taxis easily avoid traffic and are a faster mode for food deliveries.
If you’re availing any ride-sharing services, here are some tips you should follow:
Wear a mask
Make sure you’re wearing a mask at all times and so is your driver. The importance of wearing a mask before stepping out cannot be emphasised enough. Most of the ride-sharing apps these days, require photographic proof of both the rider and the driver wearing a mask. Make sure your mask starts from the bridge of your nose and ends at the bottom of your chin. Anything otherwise is ineffective to protect you.
Carry a sanitiser and don’t touch your face
Do not forget to bring your sanitiser and disinfectant wipes to wipe down immediate contact areas that include handles, seat belts, etc. Avoid touching your face or rubbing your eyes to prevent the transmission of germs. In case you’re wearing gloves, make sure to dispose them soon after exiting the vehicle, in the nearest available bin.
All ride-sharing apps have online payment options that allow the customers to make contactless payments. It is essential to keep physical interactions to a minimum and hence, cash exchange should be avoided.
This time of crisis also poses an opportunity to rethink the intra-city transportation system and make it safer and more resilient. Ride-sharing apps have the potential to transform the travelling experience in a post-COVID India only if they use this time to realise what works for the customers and what doesn’t.
A robust mobility system that recognises different commuting options and their advantages will go a long way in building a dependable and affordable transport infrastructure in the country, in the absence of a dependable public transport system.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YS.)