Erin Roberts, a foreign tourist, gets out of a metro station in the national capital and walks towards the car park. She pays the parking attendant. Next, Erin rides out on a bicycle into the busy Connaught Place. This scene can be witnessed every day on several metro stations around Delhi, thanks to a new cycle rental service by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
"I came to India from Paris to make a documentary on Indian culture. This is my second visit and I was very happy to see this popular service. On my first trip, I faced a lot of problem commuting by autos and taxis, since they are expensive. Now, I usually choose the stations where I want to go, rent a bike and roam around, "said Erin. "The best part is that it's inexpensive."
Adam Johnson, an American tourist, said: "I am on a holiday. I always use a cycle when I am in the city, but sometimes it gets a bit strenuous. Right now, I am in Delhi, and love these bike rides because they are inexpensive. This service is great for checking out the city. It's easy to park too. If I am caught in a traffic jam, I carry it." The service is just four months old and DMRC runs it at five stations. "Cycling is very popular abroad, but it's picking up in India. It is one of our most popular services," said Anuj Dayal, DMRC spokesperson.
To rent a cycle for four hours, you need to pay just Rs10. An additional fine of Rs2 per hour is charged after four hours. "All kinds of people rent these cycles," said Vineet, the cycle stand attendant at Patel Chowk station. "Foreigners want to roam around Connaught Place without spending too much. Couples usually rent one cycle and go to India Gate to sit in the lawns. They are our most frequent customers. Students too pop in."
"I often take my girlfriend to the India Gate lawns. We prefer spending less on autos, so we rent a cycle. It's easy on the pocket, "said Amit Kumar, who has a small business.
The process of renting a cycle is not simple. A person has to give his identification (ID) to the attendant. The ID could be a voter ID card, driving license or ration card. The catch is that the original copy of the ID has to be given. A mobile number is also needed. "This card makes sure that the person returns the cycle, "said Vineet.
The metro keeps two or three kinds of cycles — a mountaineering bike called Street Racer and Miss India, a bike for girls. "My friends and I rent cycles to hang around Connaught Place. We usually race on the Miss India, and boys prefer the Street Racer," said Ankita Paul, a sociology student at Venkateswara College.