At Panchkula’s new hi-tech bike stations, get a dose of fresh air & a burst of exercise

The Indian Express; Chandigarh reporter Pallavi Singhal does a test drive. Jaipal Singh

Written by Pallavi Singhal

The much-awaited bike stations of Panchkula, the first of their kind in the tricity, finally became functional on Wednesday. As many as 240 bicycles were used by people after the launch late afternoon. New to the city, I jumped with joy when I first heard of this initiative. Maybe I ll give up my scooty and opt for a bicycle, I thought. So when the bike stations finally opened, I could not help myself.

As I went to fetch a bike from the station outside my office in Sector 6, I saw a number of people standing there, mesmerised and confused by the ease as well as digitisation of it all. The bike stations had instructions written on the board. I first downloaded the Yaana app on my phone, which asked me details like my name, email ID, mobile number, password and date of birth. Then, I was sent an OTP to confirm my number. By this time, I was almost mobbed.

Next on the application, I was given a demo, after which I pressed the Start ride button, and a screen to scan a QR code appeared. The bike has a QR code at two spots at the centre of its handle and below the seat. You can scan either. I was then asked to pay for the ride. There were many options available. I chose the one-time pay option, which requires you to pay Rs 150 Rs 100 is a security deposit, which is refunded once you end your ride, while the other 50 goes into your mobile application wallet. The ride is Rs 5 per 30 minutes, so the remaining amount can be used for later rides.

Once the money was deducted, my bike unlocked with a click. As I hopped on to it, I realised it is small and comfortable. I was a little scared as it has been a while since I rode one, and more so with so many eyes on me, but once I put my foot on the pedal, I was back to school when I did this last. For the first few seconds it felt strange, but after that it just felt natural. The mechanism was simple look ahead, keep the handle straight and pedal. I could see people who had come to observe smiling.

The evening summer breeze hit my face as I took a round on it. The sweat evaporated, the child in me returned. I looked at random people and smiled. To my astonishment, they smiled back.

I took the bike to my office before taking another round on the Sector 5-6 ping road. I then dropped it back, quite unwillingly.

Ending the ride proved to be a task, as the GPS installed in the bike could not pick up its location and everytime I ended it, a message popped up saying: The location you are trying to end your ride at is not correct. The app was unable to read that I had reached the bike station. After nine failed attempts, I looked through the app for help and spotted a separate section called Help Centre . You can chat with them or call them. I decided to call them. A man named Prabhakar at the Bengaluru call centre picked up and asked me if I was at the right place. He then asked me for my registered mobile number and ended the ride for me.

While I returned, I saw loads of people still trying to figure how to use the cycles. It ll take us a little while, but we will get the hang of it. And I, for one, am now determined to explore this city on a bike. By the way, I am in good company. MC Commissioner Rajesh Jogpal also had fun on one of these bikes today.

What you need to know:

* People who plan to frequently use the service can avail of various membership options on the app
* Minimum membership is of Rs 100, which will give you 50 rides of 30 minutes each, and will be valid for 30 days, while maximum membership available is of Rs 1,000, which will give a person 2000 rides of 30 minutes, and will be valid for a year
* There are 200 bicycles at 20 docks, all over Panchkula city
* You will be charged a fine of up to Rs 25,000 if the bike is damaged or you are found trying to steal it
* The control room keeps a watch on all bikes through the GPS chips
* The bikes can be picked up from and dropped of at any bike station
* The app tells you the distance you can cover, and the calories you burn
* Timings are from 6 am to 8 pm
* If you log in with a code, you will get your first ride free. The MC Commissioner s code is 17DM65