China's ofo launch aims to boost urban mobility in India
Alok Gupta
World’s first and largest bike-sharing start-up, ofo, is launching its services next week in India to boost urban mobility.
The Beijing-based urban mobility giant said in a press release that, in the first phase, services have been launched in Indore, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Coimbatore, and Chennai. Ofo has partnered with Paytm to provide app based bike-sharing services.  
Last week, ofo signed a memorandum of understanding with Pune Municipal Corporation to be a part of city’s Cycle Plan, a part of urban mobility policy to develop cycling tracks inside the city.
On Jan. 6, the company launched a pilot project for its dockless bicycles at the Kumaraguru College of Technology. A fleet of 100 bikes has been deployed inside the college campus to boost the cycling habit among  college students. 
During the launch of its operation at Coimbatore, Rajarshi Sahai, Director of Public Policy and Communications at ofo said, “Our station-free bike-sharing concept has improved the transportation in cities across the world."
"Our mission is to solve the ‘last mile’ transportation problem in India’s urban areas, and we see immense potential in Pune for ofo’s convenient, affordable and low carbon way of travel.”
Bike sharing platforms are using college campuses for pilot projects: Last year, Ola, an app primarily for car-sharing launched a pilot project at the Kanpur campus of the Indian Institute of Technology.
Interestingly, the ofo bike sharing idea germinated at Peking University in 2014. Founders of the start-up began their app based bike sharing at the campus. It quickly expanded to five other colleges and today, ofo operates in 180 cities around the world.
According to Xinhua, ofo announced its plan to enter India on Nov. 29. During the initial launch months, the bikes can be used for free without any payments or deposits.   
India is promoting cycling to ease urban commute, it has made major policy changes to include cycling tracks in cities. /AFP Photo

India is promoting cycling to ease urban commute, it has made major policy changes to include cycling tracks in cities. /AFP Photo

India’s urban mobility challenge
In recent years, India has faced difficulties with implementing green urban mobility in cities. In the last decade, transit-oriented development (ToD) led to the creation of residential and work zones with a significant commute distance between them. 
Long commutes and traffic congestion forced policymakers to think of compact cities with minimum travel time. 
Kanika Kalra, an urban transport expert, told CGTN, accessibility became the biggest challenge in ToD in cities. The government had been promoting cycling tracks, and significant policy changes have been made to include bikes as a prominent mode of transport. 
“Now, most of the cities are including cycling tracks under urban planning policies to boost cycling,” she said. 
India is developing 100 smart cities, and urban mobility has become an enormous challenge, forcing the government to initiate carbon-free commute plans. 
Bengaluru, one of the country’s major cities, has come up with a bicycle sharing project under which Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) will provide 4,000 cycles and 350 docking points for the green commute. 
As part of the smart city project, Bhopal, another Indian city, collaborated with a German company to launch a fleet of 500 bikes with docking stations last year. The city planners feel that bike usage will solve traffic jams at prominent roads of Bhopal. 
“The entry of ofo is a big boost for urban mobility in India, but the major challenge of thefts is a matter of concern,” Kalra added.