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Indian ride-hail player Ola just launched its own dockless bike-sharing service

Using the same app as they would to hail a ride, Ola users can find the nearest dockless bike.

A mobile phone displaying the Ola app AP

Most companies in the on-demand transportation world are attempting to solve for the first- and last-mile problems many people face in urban areas. How, for example, do you get from your New York City subway stop to your actual destination?

Those companies typically offer a single solution. For ride-hail companies, it’s usually on-demand cars and sometimes motorcycles, depending on the country. For bike-sharing companies, it is strategically placed bikes. But now, India’s homegrown ride-hail player Ola is experimenting with offering both cars and bikes to its growing user base across the country.

The company, which raised $1.1 billion in October and also offers an on-demand auto-rickshaw service, just launched a dockless bike-sharing pilot in some parts of India. Customers can access the service, called Pedal, on the same Ola app they use to hail a car.

While it’s just a pilot and is only available on a number of campuses at first, Pedal opens up a world of opportunity around multi-modal transportation for the company. The integration of a bike-sharing app allows Ola users to bike to a place where it’s more convenient or cheaper for an Ola driver to pick them up. That’s also true for getting to a destination a car can neither take you to easily — because of congestion or other impediments — nor take you there affordably.

“Bicycles are a sustainable and efficient alternative for covering first- and last-mile mobility needs in our cities,” an Ola spokesperson said.

Given that the bikes are GPS-enabled and the service is integrated within the Ola app, customers will be able to plan their route better by targeting pick-up or drop-off locations where there are bikes available.

“Ola Pedal will go a long way in solving larger issues like pollution and congestion in cities, especially for short-distance trips,” the spokesperson continued.

Ola isn’t the only company with its sights set on owning more aspects of the multi-model transportation market. Ford, which operates a docked bike-sharing system in San Francisco and acquired the shuttle service Chariot, is also exploring the opportunities around offering multiple transportation solutions.

With its eye on reducing pollution in the country, Didi, Ola’s Chinese counterpart, has also invested in major dockless bike-sharing company Ofo. Like Ola’s customers, Didi’s riders can find an Ofo bike right in the Didi app.

In China, dockless bike-sharing has become so popular that there were more bike-sharing rides in China in the first quarter of 2017 than the total number of on-demand trips in India in that same period.

The problem, however, that many of these bike-sharing systems have come across is its bikes stacking up and congesting sidewalks and pedestrian roadways. That’s become a central concern for local regulators in the U.S. as dockless bike-sharing companies just begin to take off.

Still, there is great potential for this service in India, given the sheer size of the market and the recent efforts to promote sustainability. The company said it’s working on expanding the scope of Pedal in the next few weeks and has garnered “massive interest” from campuses and cities across the country.

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