Review: PEDL by zoomcar

My first time using a bike-sharing service was not-so-chaotic.

A few weeks ago, I decided to rent a bicycle through zoomcar’s bike-sharing service PEDL. If you live in Bangalore (oops, I mean Bengaluru) or any of their other supported cities, it’s likely you’ve seen their green cycles dotting neighbourhoods.

Bicycle-sharing services aren’t a new innovation. Wikipedia says such services began in Europe during the 20th Century. I was introduced to such services while watching a vlog by Casey Neistat, where he used one of CitiBike’s bicycles in New York City. The concept seemed amazing when I first saw it, and I really wished that India would get its own similar system.

I’m pleased with the arrival of a service like PEDL. PEDL is the first such bike-sharing service I’ve seen in India. From what I could understand, the service has designated various bicycle parking spots around cities. The GPS-enabled bicycles have a lock mechanism attached to their frame, so there is no need for a cable lock or anything of that sort. Users have to travel to a stand, and using the app, scan a QR code tagged to every bicycle. The service then does its magic and unlocks the bicycle whose tag you scanned. To end usage sessions, users have to lock the bicycle using the lock on the bicycle’s frame and provide a confirmation through the app. Rides can be ended only at designated parking spots that are indicated on a map in zoomcar’s app.

Setting up the application is pretty simple too: provide your phone number, email ID, and link your PayTM eWallet. It took under five minutes to download the app and rent a bicycle. Good work on the UX and flow of the application. Using the application is pretty simple too.

Now to the real product: the bicycle.

Here’s where I started having problems.

Well, for one, the basket attached to the front of the bicycle does not turn along with the front wheel. Unlike kids’ bicycles, whose front baskets turn with the handlebar/wheel, the baskets on PEDL’s cycles do not turn. It doesn’t sound like too big a problem here, but trust me, when you get started on the bicycle, your brain will begin to malfunction seeing the basket remain stationary. I don’t know what design decision prompted this, but this is one change I would make to the bicycle. My friends had similar experiences with the basket too, so unless we all have weird brains, I think this is a real problem.

Also, the basket is designed a little strangely. I would have liked to place items like my phone and some groceries in the basket. However, the basket only has small metallic bars along its sides, and no mesh or anything of that sort. Thus, the basket leaves huge gaps for things to fall out. I would have appreciated smaller gaps or a mesh. After all, my phone slipped through a hoodie that was placed in the basket and got its display shattered. I could literally see the internal components of my phone through the shattered glass. I wonder whether zoomcar will pay for the damages :). Just kidding, I’m glad I only had to pay six rupees for my 40-minute usage of the bicycle.

The baskets have huge gaps and do not turn with the handlebar… Ouch. Please buy me a new phone.

My bicycle’s seat also seemed to have problems of its own. Because I’m taller than the average person, I normally raise the seat of a bicycle as high as appropriate. However, my bicycle’s seat refused to cooperate at first. Upon using excessive force, I was able to raise the seat. However, midway through my journey, the seat dropped to the lowest possible height. Ugh. Imagine me, comically pedalling through traffic. A lowrider — that’s what I became. I don’t know what the cause was — was it the bicycle, or Bangalore’s bumpy roads? Regardless, this ruined my joyride on the way home and my legs hurt afterwards. Another bicycle’s front brake had also failed. Super dangerous. However, I can confirm that the bicycles’ seats are super comfortable. All that needs more work is maintenance of the bicycles.

Nevertheless, it’s just an ordinary bicycle, and pedalling along is pretty easy.

I wish I looked this cool. (Source)

Special Mentions

Besides the bicycles, Bangalore’s roads deserve an honourable mention. Riddled with potholes, making them look like stretches of Swiss cheese, the roads were probably the worst element throughout my experience. Honestly, Domino’s should probably pave roads and fix potholes in Bangalore if they ever decide to undertake a road paving project in India.

Yup, the city of Bengaluru actually houses stray crocs in its potholes. Good use of stagnant water and potholes. (Source)

On the bright side, drivers in Bangalore are actually pretty friendly towards cyclists. I mean, it’s my personal experience, but disregarding the frequent honks, my experience was pretty peaceful. Last I remember, the incessant honking and rash driving of motorists nearly drove me off a cliff in north India.

Overall, though, I certainly recommend PEDL for commuters. Nothing beats the satisfaction of simply pedalling past long lines of cars in traffic. Furthermore, PEDL is dirt cheap. At three rupees per half hour (about 5 cents), I think PEDL provides an awesome deal. I think anyone with a short commute distance should certainly consider using PEDL over services like Uber.

Battle Royale.

Uber is a menace in the city. Traffic. I’m guilty of committing this mistake too, but these days, most cars on the road I see are filled with one Uber driver (and other such apps) and one passenger. And there are thousands of such cars with only one passenger. So, the next time you complain about traffic on roads, you know what the cause is. There are so many cabs!!! It annoys me. We’re still far off from making carpooling the norm. Or public transport. Agreed, public transport (in Bangalore) still needs some work. But if we’re really concerned about the environment, PEDL provides good offerings, both to the user and the environment, which you should consider availing.

All in all, I hope to see services like PEDL not become just “alternate” modes of transport, but more of people’s primary choice of transport in the future. Personally, I can see myself using PEDL more often now (if not my own bicycle). It’s convenient and cheap.

Oh, and, remember: Safety first. Bring your own helmet.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll switch to a more environmentally (and cost!) friendly form of transportation soon! I don’t have a benchmark to rate PEDL against, but anyway, good job people!