A mong the several available paratransit alternatives, bike-taxis—motorbikes that operate as taxis— are a comparatively new development in India’s congested urban landscape.
Despite concerted efforts to improve urban public transport, the use of personal vehicles has increased across India. City administrations are now promoting the use of bike-taxis that can provide ridership to more commuters than a private vehicle.
While bike-taxis are prevalent in some Indian cities, their use is curtailed elsewhere in the country by state policy and statutes. Amid growing city congestion, bike-taxis are a convenient and affordable transit option that must be encouraged through a regulatory regime that builds in safety and prevents misuse. Bike-taxis were already popular in Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.
They are widely prevalent in many Southeast Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Vietnam as well as countries across Africa, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania.
Though Goa became the first Indian state in 1981 to permit bikes to operate as commercial vehicles and notified 64 motorcycle taxi stands across the state, their use started proliferating in India only in the second decade of the 21st century.
In 2016, Mizoram became the second state in India to allow biketaxis to operate, stipulating that only bikes that were less than two-year-old and had a speed capability of 125cc or more would be eligible for permits.
In the same year, West Bengal permitted bike-taxis to operate as commercial vehicles after considering public suggestions and the Central Government’s recommendations.
Haryana and Karnataka followed and at the end 2018, about 13 states and Union Territories in India had permitted bike-taxis to operate. Bike–taxi startups sprang up in no time to ride the wave of sharing economy Working much like Ola or Uber, which incidentally have their own biketaxi services, these startups allow a consumer to easily book a ride at the click of a button. In July 2021, Karnataka permitted electric bike-taxis to operate in the state, with the aim of providing affordable first- and last-mile connectivity.
In early 2022, Maharashtra’s Transport Commissioner said that the state is considering granting permission to bike-taxi services, but will first conduct a study to assess the vehicular density of cities in the state and the feasibility of the service.
As urbanisation intensifies, vehicle density in cities is certain to rise, generating more traffic, congestion, and air pollution. In such a scenario, four-wheelers will struggle to operate, especially if travel time is of concern. The need for a smaller, faster, cheaper, and more convenient mode of transportation is best served by two-wheelers.
The success of the cab aggregator business model and the high demand for two-wheelers has improved the prospects for bike-taxis in the country. Additionally, India’s bike-taxi industry has the potential to generate over two million livelihood opportunities and about $5 billion in revenue.
In fact, bike-taxis already have a sizeable presence in the states where they are allowed to operate, and aggregators have played a crucial role in their uptake.
For instance, Ola Bike, which first began operations in Gurugrm, Faridabad, and Jaipur in 2016, is now available in 200 cities and towns, and assesses that the real potential for bike-taxis is in India’s smaller towns and cities. Similarly, Uber operates bike-taxi services in 30 cities, with plans to expand to 200 others.
Rapido, functioning exclusively in the two-wheeler rental space, has its bike taxi services in 100 cities in India.
According to Allied Market Research, India’s bike taxi market was valued at $50.5 million in FY21 and is expected to reach $1,478 million by FY30.