SF politicians, bicyclists and others gear up for bike lane changes

Supervisor Hillary Ronen is living in fear.

Her husband takes their young daughter to school nearly every day on the back of his bicycle and, nearly every day, she’s haunted by mental imagery of the two of them being doored or sideswiped or otherwise coming to grief on Valencia Street. San Francisco’s major cycling artery is also ground zero for Uber and Lyft drop-offs and pick-ups, a mixture about as combustible and ominous as locating a match factory next to the lighter fluid depot.

These are the sorts of things that wander into Ronen’s mind during endless public comment sessions in Board of Supervisors meetings.

Valencia Street forms the border between Ronen’s District 9 and Supervisor Jeff Sheehy’s District 8. Sheehy — who worked as a bike messenger when he arrived in this city in 1988 to underwrite food, beer and $300-a-month rent — recently donned an aggressively yellow shirt and served as a human protected bike lane.

So, the supervisors overseeing both sides of the street are on the record in calling for protected bike lanes to keep Ronen’s family and Sheehy’s bike-messenger successors from tragically commingling with some dude in an Uber. Everyone says they want the same thing — but San Francisco is a peculiarly political town. And, very much in spite of our self-styled reputation for progressiveness, it’s also a place that’s often stridently opposed to change.

Right now, everyone is, ostensibly, on the same page. But this book is long.

When bike lanes were first proposed for Valencia Street, Department of Parking and Traffic boss Bill Maher had a succinct message: “Over my dead body.”

Those lanes were installed in 1999. Maher is still alive and well.

So, clearly, this city’s relationship with cycling and cyclists has transformed, as has Valencia Street. Rather than mortal opposition, our elected leaders and city staff are growing increasingly amenable to cycling and are keen to reach out to what is now a constituency. But this city has a number of constituencies and, in this neighborhood and, specifically, with this proposed project, they’re commingling to the same degree as Ubers and bikes. This endeavor may end nearly as badly.

On Nov. 13, the Board of Supervisors will, all but certainly, greenlight a proposed $145,000 study on how Valencia Street’s bike lanes could be upgraded. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will be the body undertaking the work, but the Board expedited this process by offering to pay for the whole thing; Sheehy’s office will kick down $50,000 in transportation improvement funds. So, it’s clear that getting this study started, tout suite, is important for members of the board.

But that’s when things slow down. The study’s timeframe calls for its results to be presented in December of 2018. The crucial “stakeholder outreach” component of this study — i.e. finding out who is going to declare war on whom depending on what the study concludes — won’t be completed until September of next year. Actually doing the stuff the study recommends we do, if we actually do it, will take years more. And, all during that time, the scenarios that necessitated the study won’t be improving.

And perhaps that’s why, last week, Ronen proposed that Uber, Lyft and other app-hailed services stop picking up and dropping off riders on Valencia and instead pull onto the numerous side streets.

For San Franciscans who would have reveled at the sight of Travis Kalanick slinking off via the perp walk, this proposition was likely well-received. But Ronen knows she has no regulatory authority over app-hailed services; that’s the domain of the California Public Utilities Commission. And striking a “deal” with Uber et al. is a bit like Lando Calrissian trying to drive a hard bargain with Darth Vader. None of the city’s progressives, in fact, have much faith in Mayor Ed Lee to demand significant concessions from any manner of tech company.

And yet, those countless Ubers and Lyfts dropping off countless folks on Valencia aren’t doing so merely for the joy of driving through the Mission. “If you think restaurants are not going to freak out about not having Lyft and Uber doing pick-ups, well, that’s crazy,” summed up a longtime city official.

Ronen’s proposal was inspired by the well-meaning and understandable desire to keep cyclists from being run down. Everyone wants that. But no one wants to give up something that’s working for them. And this is why a year of studying this and proposing “solutions” may move everyone further apart rather than closer together.

Installing  protected bike lanes of the sort everyone professes to want on Valencia is going to require overcoming two sorts of obstacles: logistical and political. It’s not clear which will be more difficult.

Without tumbling too far down the rabbit hole of traffic minutiae, let’s discuss the physical problems first. These are significant. Several blocks of Valencia sit below overhead power lines and bus wires. This sets up a battle both with the SFMTA and the Fire Department. Pushing traffic further toward the middle of the street would potentially require a firefighter’s ladder to a burning building to go right through those wires — which is a nonstarter. There’s a long list of proposed cycling lanes that the Fire Department has held up over similar concerns, including a stretch on Upper Market that was approved by the Board and had the money earmarked and ready to go. Furthermore, any attempt to move those wires could trigger California Environmental Quality Act requirements. That’ll have a molasses effect on the process.

So, there’s trouble brewing with public city institutions. And, on other stretches of Valencia, private institutions may be spoiling for a fight.

On some blocks of Valencia, there’s a center turn lane. On some there isn’t. Removing that lane would allow the installation of bike and buffer zones without losing parking. But on the blocks where it’s not there, parking is going to have to come out. That will rankle people.

We’ve come a long way from Maher’s “over my dead body” era. There have been winners and losers over the past two decades as Valencia Street has hyper-gentrified. But, writ large, nobody can say that increased cycling amenities are incompatible with booming business.

Writ small, however, removing parking spots irritates business owners. Especially, City Hall officials note, if it’s their parking spot, the place in front of their business they arrive at early in the morning and where they feed the meter throughout the day. Times are changing, but some things never change.

Putting serious money into improving Valencia Street’s bike lanes, when much of the city isn’t nearly as safe and accommodating to cyclists, is a debatable decision. But Valencia is the backbone of the city’s cycling network and the place we’ve rolled out the green carpet for would-be riders. And, city officials tell us, if San Francisco can’t get it right on this street, then it can’t get it right, period.

“If ever there was a corridor on which to push progressive transportation policy, it’s Valencia,” says one. “The merchants are young. The raw material is fabulous. I think the timing is right. Let’s just hope Hillary and Jeff work it out so it doesn’t become political.”

And let’s hope that, whatever we do, it’s done before Ronen is worried about her daughter riding around with a grandchild.


An electric bike Maker, Bitcoin buying and selling Platform, and extra

India Funding Roundup: An Electric Motorcycle Maker, Bitcoin Trading Platform, and More

Our present day funding roundup compiles investments in an auto rickshaw aggregator, platforms forlifestyle product discovery, Bitcoin trading, professional recommendation, and a maker of electric bikes.

Paytm introduced Monday that it led the collection B investment of $10 million in Chandigarh-basedJugnoo. the auto-rickshaw hailing and hyperlocal shipping mobile app obtained $5 million from Paytm and the last from present investor Snow Leopard and a brand new investor named Rocketship.vc. At gift, the automobile-rickshaw aggregator and hyperlocal transport carrier provider operates in 30 cities and 11villages across the us of a, and has a community of around 10,000 automobile-rickshaw drivers.

Smytten, a discovery platform for top class way of life products, has acquired an undisclosed sum ofinvestment from Rajan Anandan, MD of Google India and South East Asia. The startup stated it’s going touse this round of investment to improving person experience and product improvement, apart fromincreasing its consumer and logo base, with a focus on AI and personalisation. founded by means of ex-Unilever and Google executives, Siddhartha Nangia and Swagata Sarangi – Smytten provides a curated discovery trial and shopping enjoy for over 80 domestic and international brands on its platform.

Indian Bitcoin trading platform Coinsecure announced a fund increase of $1.2 million (more or less Rs. 7.nine crores) as a part of its ongoing ‘collection A’ funding round, the company said it expects expectsto close the round soon. based in July 2014 by Mohit Kalra and Benson Samuel, Coinsecure launched its Bitcoin alternate on January 1, 2015. Coinsecure offers an algorithmic trading Bitcoin alternate, a Blockchain explorer, a ridicule trading platform for customers to try trading without actual cash, and a number of integrations with international partners.

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd, has reportedly invested an undisclosed sum in Lenskartsolutions Pvt. Ltd, because the company seems to elevate a further Rs. 400 crores in its modern dayround, so as to installation a manufacturing, processing, and meeting facility that can produce 20,000 pairs of eye glasses day by day.

Tork vehicles
Pune-based electric motorcycle maker Tork bikes has raised an undisclosed sum in angel funding from Ola founders Bhavish Agarwal and Ankit Bhati, other than a set of angels. founded by using Kapil Shelke, the startup said that the T6X motorbike might be the first Indian clever motorcycle, with functions like GPS, cloud connectivity, and phone charging.

Bengaluru-primarily based Tapchief, an internet platform for users in search of expert recommendation,won $a hundred and fifty,000 (roughly Rs. 1 crore) in funding from Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma after winning the thoughts Batteries, Chase Your goals – Ideathon’ Contest. based in 2016 via Shashank Murali, the platform helps you to find an expert in a category of your choosing, and get a reaction within72 hours.

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Tags: Apps, Coinsecure, funding, India, internet, investment, Jugnoo, Lenskart, Smytten, Startups, Tapchief, Tork automobiles

Ola and Uber Launch Bike Taxi Services in Bengaluru

Ola and Uber Launch Bike Taxi Services in Bengaluru

On demand transportation providers Ola and Uber have announced the launch of bike taxi pilots in Bengaluru on the same day, starting at a minimum fare of Rs. 15, for UberMoto, and Rs. 30 for Ola Bikes.

UberMoto has been launched at Rs. 3 per kilometre, and Rs. 1 per minute of trip time, while Ola bikes are available at an introductory fare of Rs. 2 per km and Re. 1 per minute of trip time.

Ola app lists Bikes as the first option on its app, though we weren’t able to find any available bike taxis in the vicinity. The UberMoto option wasn’t available on the app at the time of filing, and the company said that will go live on Thursday.

In an emailed statement, Ola said that bike taxis will offer the same features as its cab service, including includes driver details displayed upfront, SOS, live tracking and seamless payment using Ola Money. Additionally, all pillion riders will be provided with helmets as mandated for their safety.

Uber said that it offers GPS tracking, 2-way feedback, and the ability to share trip details with family and friends. It is also taking registrations from people who own motorbikes and scooters to become drivers on the platform and recoup the costs of their trips.

Uber had launched its first motorcycle scheme in Thailand’s capital Bangkok a week ago, where it competes with GrabTaxi, which already lets users book motorcycle taxis in some South East Asian countries.

“This will help users get to where they want to be within minutes, especially in traffic prone cities like ours,” said Pranay Jivrajka, Chief Operating Officer at Ola. “We expect significant demand in the pilot phase and we will continue to scale this service up in the coming weeks to cover more areas in the city and serve more users.”

“Enabling transportation at the push of a button, UberMoto will offer another affordable mobility option that will help people save time and money while helping cut congestion in our cities over time,” said Amit Jain, President, Uber India.

Other startups operating in the two-wheeler on-demand taxi space include Baxi and M-taxi, which operate in Haryana, the second state in India to allow bike taxis as a mode of public transport.

HeyTaxi, which operates as a ride share and on demand delivery service in Mumbai and Bengaluru was reportedly told by the Mumbai’s RTO division to shut down as it lacks government sanction, but is currently operational all across Mumbai, said Vikram Lakhotia, in an email to Gadgets 360. The app was functional and accepting bookings at the time of writing.

Written with inputs from Reuters

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Tags: Apps, Baxi, Bike Taxis, HeyTaxi, India, Internet, M-Taxi, Ola, Ola Bikes, UberMoto

India Funding Roundup: Electronics and Bike Service Platforms, Personal assistants, and More

India Funding Roundup: Electronics and Bike Service Platforms, Personal assistants, and More

Our latest funding roundup compiles early and late stage investments in Indian startups with business models centred around personal assistant apps, logistics, media streaming, real-estate, as well as bike and electronics service platforms.

Personal assistant app Haptik announced Tuesday that it had raised an undisclosed sum in its Series B round from Times Internet. Founded in 2013 by Aakrit Vaish and Swapan Rajdev, the startup said that it processes over half a million requests per month, out of which 25 percent are completed using artificial intelligence. The funds will be used for product development, improving artificial intelligence capabilities and business operations, the startup said.

(Also read: Roundup: Indian Apps to Outsource Your Everyday Tasks)

Logistics major DTDC Express has picked up a 20 percent stake in Gurgaon-based Llama Logisol, which operates logistics solutions provider Shipsy, for over $1 million (roughly Rs. 6.65 crores). Founded in June 2015 by IIT graduates, Soham Chokshi, Dhruv Agrawal, Maharshi Devraj and Himanshu Gupta, Shipsy had received angel funding from Dheeraj Jain, the managing partner of Redcliffe Capital. “With Shipsy, we want to help make smarter decisions using the vast amount of ambient data available like location intelligence, last mile delivery optimisation and supply chain planning,” Chokshi said.

Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi announced Monday its first investment of $25 million (roughly Rs. 166.59 crores) investment into streaming content provider Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, with participation from existing investors Intel Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Indian billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. Xiaomi said that the investment marks the deepening of the company’s strategy to introduce localised Internet services on its smartphones in India.

Online real estate platform housing.com Monday announced that former business head of 99Acres.com Vineet Singh has invested an undisclosed sum in the company, and will be working with the Housing.com management team in a senior advisory role.

Bengaluru-based Gear6.in, an online bike service platform has reportedly raised $500,000 (roughly Rs. 3.3 crores) in a seed round funding from Ninestarter, an early-stage seed investment company. Founded in 2016 by Bits Pilani alumni, the startup reportedly sees 500 transactions a month.

Mumbai-based Servify, a tech startup that offers services through an app for electronics and appliances through a brand authorised service ecosystem, has received an undisclosed sum of funding from Blume Ventures, Germany’s Barkawi Holdings GmbH and TM Service Technology Holdings GmbH. Servify provides apps for Android and iOS, which enables users to add all their household devices, upload bills and invoices, access brand authorised service with a few taps, and them track the status of the service request till its closure.

With inputs from PTI

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Tags: Apps, Funding, Gear6, Haptik, Housing, Hungama, India, Internet, Investment, Servify, Shipsy, Startups