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Rent a bike in Chennai using SmartBike

Back in 2019, Greater Chennai Corporation along with SmartBike Mobility Pvt. Ltd. introduced the “SmartBike”

– a cycle sharing system in a move to promote the use of bicycles in the city. The use of automobiles in the city is increasing leading to traffic congestion in various parts of the city and importantly increase air pollution in the city. 

Several cities across India have introduced various bike-sharing systems with varying degrees of success. After nearly 3 years since its induction, I would say that ridership remains low and as a result, the cycles and docking stations remain un-maintained in various parts of the city. 

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I have been wanting to try the Smartbike system for a very long time, but I didn’t get a chance to try the system until today. Unlike other parts of the city, Smartbike system is used popularly in Anna Nagar by the student community.  

Renting a cycle is fairly simple. Download SmartBike application from Play Store/App Store, create an account, and find the nearest docking station on the map. After reaching the docking station, simply top-up Smartbike wallet with a minimum of INR 50, scan the QR code on the cycle using the app, Unlock the cycle and you are all set to go. You can return the cycle in any of the designated docking stations within the city. You can lock, unlock, view your ride status and check docking station locations using the SmartBike application.

SmartBike eco bike, geared bicycles.

Pricing depends on the class of cycle you choose. You have 4 choices of cycles to choose from with prices starting from INR 5 for the first 30 minutes when you choose “SmartBike” (Class SmartBike and not the application) to INR 10 for the first 10 minutes when you choose an E-Bike. I always wanted to try an e-cycle and that’s the choice I took. Unfortunately, not all the cycles are charged, mine was completely drained which was a bummer. We changed to another E-Bike at another designated docking station, and fortunately, this cycle was charged properly. I should say that I enjoyed riding the e-bike, which was a breeze to ride through the city doing short trips. 

Smartbike e-bikes, which honestly could have been maintained better.

On the negative side, the cycles could have been well maintained. But I could understand that the low maintenance is partly due to low ridership as well. The application is not without bugs. It took solid 10 minutes to find a way to lock/unlock the cycle. And another 10 minutes when trying to end the ride. 

Major bugs in the system are, 

  1. Initially, I didn’t receive OTP to sign in to the app. 
  2. Locking/Unlocking cycles 
  3. Ending trip at the end. 

SmartBike is an excellent system, something that is needed in today’s era to solve our transport and pollution problems. But ridership is pretty low and docking stations are not found in major parts of the city. With proper marketing and more docking stations, this system would definitely be a hit in Chennai. Hoping positively to see some positive growth for SmartBike team. But in the meantime, don’t forget to check out and ride a cycle on your own! 


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