I was planning to test ride a public bike sharing system for quite some time as this concept is very new in India. Recently, I came across ‘Yulu’, a Bangalore based bike share tech start-up who have introduced a dockless bicycle rental system in Navi Mumbai (New Bombay).
On 5th January 2019, the first Saturday of a new year I visited a park ‘Jewel of Navi Mumbai’. This park is at about 1.5 kms distance from Nerul station. Just outside the park there is a Yulu Zone with many cycles parked in a row at a dedicated cycle stand. The cycle zone is easily visible from either sides of the street as it has a large branding board with detailed instructions for first time users. The beautiful Dutch style classic Yulu bikes prominently stand out on the public street. Apart from Bangalore, Yulu operates in Mumbai, Pune, Bhubaneswar and Delhi.
Currently, there are twenty Yulu zones across Navi Mumbai and more zones are planned to be launched in the coming months. Such zones are usually unmanned and work as a self service pay per use model. But on Saturday, there was a company representative aligned to me by their operations team for a guided tour of Yulu bikes. As a cycling blogger and a bicycle advocate, I had fixed up this test ride with their team to gain experience of their exciting concept which has received good response by the local citizens.
Before we unravel the Yulu cycling experience, let’s understand few key insights of this tech start-up.
Yulu is committed to change the transportation scenario in India and taking strong strides towards promoting sustainable commuting. The company’s vision is to offer last mile connectivity through accessible, affordable, efficient and clean solution for public transportation. The focus is on pushing people to ditch their cars and use Yulu cycles especially for shorter commutes and meet their daily errands.
In Navi Mumbai, Yulu launched it’s services on 1st November 2018. They currently have 225 Yulu cycles on road with 20 Yulu zones. On an average there are 900 rides per day and by end of January 2019 more 50 Yulu zones are expected to go live. And by March 2019 they will further have about 1000+ Yulu cycles on road in Navi Mumbai.
To use a Yulu bike, one has to first download the Yulu app which is available for free on Google play store. To begin your ride, it will ask you to top-up your Yulu wallet with a security deposit of 100 Rupees (1.2 Euros or 1.4 Dollars). Once the ride starts, charges for first 30 minutes is 10 rupees and 5 rupees for the next 30 minutes. So technically, rupees 15 for 1 hr, 20 for 1.5 hrs, 25 for 2 hrs and so on.
After adding money to your wallet, next step is to find the closest Yulu zone – arrive at the Yulu zone and unlock a bike using the barcode scanner located on the rear wheel fender. Since the app works on a GPRS – bluetooth technology, it will connect with your mobile device as soon you scan the barcode. The best part of this app is that it allows its users to pause the ride if they wish to halt in between for a leisure break or work. Again resume the ride on the mobile device and once you reach your destination, park the cycle on a designated Yulu parking zone and lock it.
I spoke to few people who were using Yulu bikes to understand their point of view about the new shared cycling service and why they cycle in general.
Abhishek and Priti Rai:
The couple drive for about 5 kms on weekend mornings, park their car and cycle for an hour. By opening up a Yulu zone, they feel that a new ritual is added to their fitness routine and their mornings are different from what it use to be. Apart from physical health benefits, cycling gives them their me time to relax and sometimes make new friends.
Abhishek and Priti have started cycling after a long time and are feeling confident about it. They plan to continue cycling as they find it a better option compared to enrolling for a Gym.
Kartik Singh, Deepika and Kanupriya:
The trio are new to this city and have come here for work assignments. Kartik said “before Yulu launched their services, I had little options other than taking walks in the nearby garden. But now, cycling has added a new dimension to my lifestyle. I can easily cycle as per my convenience without owning a bicycle, avoid hassles of storage and evade maintenance cost. This gives me complete freedom to cycle with joy and pay only when I use the service“.
I am being a little technical in sharing my experience. I found these bikes to be light, easy to navigate and very comfortable. The upright handles and classic saddle seats automatically creates a straight seating position. The bikes have a unisex frame and comes in a standard bright blue shade for easy identification. They are single speed hybrid commuter models available for use 24×7 and 365 days a year. A basket fitted in front can come very handy, but are definitely not designed to accommodate heavy loads. Both front and rear wheels are protected with fenders and a lock situated on the back. The only thing I found missing were lights which will serve as a safety measure in the dark. Although there are reflectors but adding lights should make it a safer design.
All in All, Riding a Yulu bicycle was a pleasurable experience.
Some more photographs taken during my visit:
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai