Taxi services

Bike taxi services ignore user safety

HYDERABAD: A doctor riding an Ola bike suffered head injuries after the two-wheeler was hit by a car in Malakpet on Tuesday night. While the pilot (captain) suffered only minor injuries, Dr Shravani was hospitalized and died on Saturday. Police say Dr Shravani was not wearing a helmet when the hit-and-run happened. The incident has raised concerns about the safety of passengers using ride-sharing bike services.

Failure to wear a helmet is one of the main concerns of self-service bikes. Many commuters, especially technicians, use the bike taxi service because it offers a quick, easy and cost-effective way to enjoy seamless last-mile connectivity. Most ridesharing aggregators commit on their websites to providing branded or ISI-certified headsets to riders, many have not.

Deccan Chronicle spoke to passengers who use bike taxi services such as Ola, Rapido and Uber to find out how things were going. According to the rules of the bicycle taxi aggregators, it is the responsibility of the driver (captain) to provide a helmet for the passenger. Captains rarely keep an extra helmet for the passenger.

“I often take Ola bike rides from my residence to work. There were times when I was not given a helmet. Sometimes even Captain Ola didn’t wear a helmet himself. Recently when I booked an Ola bike taxi from my home to Secunderabad station, the Ola driver was not wearing a helmet. I haven’t been offered a helmet at least five out of ten times,” said Jyothi Sudha, who works for a pharmaceutical company. Anyone riding a bicycle is required to wear a protective helmet under section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988.

Bike taxi companies have been called upon by traffic police to ensure the rule is followed. However, enforcement is lax. Traffic cops take it easy or are wise to do so. According to the city’s traffic police, around 120 of the city’s 237 road deaths in 2020 were due to head injuries – caused by motorcyclists falling off motorcycles or scooters.

“I don’t prefer taxis that go through traffic jams and I opt for bicycles that get me to my destination quickly. I usually use Ola, Rapido or Uber services to get around. They are more convenient, at a reasonable price and faster to reach my location. I was only offered a headset a few times,” said Ali Enuke Fortunatus Akudinanwa, a Nigerian student at Osmania University majoring in computer science.

He said one occasion he was offered a helmet was when the captain wanted to avoid traffic police dropping off a challan. He declined the cyclist’s offer, however, as he felt uncomfortable using it and feared infection. Worse, helmets used by different people have an unbearable smell, he said.