According to a senior official from Smartbike Chandigarh, every smart bike utilized for public bike-sharing in Chandigarh has suffered from vandalism at least twice over the past two years.
The company currently manages over 3,750 smart bikes, including 1,700 e-bikes, available at 465 docking stations throughout the city. The cost of an e-bike is slightly higher than that of a regular smart bike.
Chandigarh introduced its public bike-sharing system in December 2020, with 250 bicycles and 25 docking stations. Since then, two phases of the project have been completed, with the third phase commencing in January 2023.
However, since its launch, at least 7,000 cases of smart bike vandalism have been reported, with the majority occurring in the southern sectors, including rehabilitation colonies and villages under Chandigarh. The vandalism included breaking the GPS, and locks, stealing front carriers, seats, chains, and chain covers, puncturing wheels, and dumping cycles in secluded areas.
The largest number of reported incidents (4,800) occurred in areas such as Burail, Sector 45, Ramdarbar, Maloya, Dadumajra, Sector 38, Sector 43, Sector 51, Sector 29, Sector 31, and Buterla Village, Sector 41. Missing smart bikes were also found abandoned in various residential locations in Burail village, Sector 45, Ramdarbar, phase-2, and more.
An official from Smartbike Chandigarh noted that vandalism was not limited to the southern sectors, as the company also reported damages to smart bikes in the northern and central sectors. In these areas, people often abandoned the bikes in the middle of the road or attempted to drag them after being locked. Additionally, there were instances of cutting battery wires from e-bikes in the Sukhna Lake docking station. At least 300 police complaints were filed, with around six cases leading to FIRs.
Vikash Bakshi, the General Manager of Smartbike Chandigarh, believes that the community must understand that these bikes are for their convenience and that they should take care of them. The company reports all acts of vandalism to the local police, and the public is starting to become more sensitive to the issue, calling in abandoned smart bikes. The maximum incidents of vandalism were reported in 2021. The company has an 11-year contract with the Chandigarh administration.
Smartbike Ltd. plans to introduce Bluetooth systems to connect smart bikes to users’ smartphones and resolve issues of low connectivity in Chandigarh. The company has received complaints about poor coordination between the smartphone and the smart bike due to low connectivity in some areas. They are currently working on a plan to connect the smart bikes to users’ smartphones via Bluetooth. The company operates the project from the Smart City office in Sector 17.