Uber buys JUMP, a dockless e-bike startup, and this is a good thing

Jump Bike
© JUMP

Another tool that makes life easier to live without a car.

JUMP is a dockless electric bike company that is making a splash in San Francisco right now with its cute red bikes with big baskets. After just a few months of operation, their bikes are making a thousand trips a day averaging 2.6 miles. It was just bought by Uber, because in fact they are a big threat and a big opportunity.

Johana Bhuiyan of Recode notes that e-bikes are a real threat to their model on short runs.

Under the right circumstances — like weather, time, availability and price — taking a $2 bike ride may be the optimal option for passengers. That’s especially true of electric bikes that can be dropped off anywhere because it offers the convenience of a door-to-door service that does not require much more physical exertion for a typically much cheaper price.

Perhaps Uber is acknowledging what we have been saying in TreeHugger: that under the right circumstances, bikes and e-bikes will eat cars. Or as I noted earlier,

Perhaps instead of being so obsessed with making the world safe for autonomous cars, we should be concentrating on making them safe for bikes and e-bikes; they are going to carry a lot more people a lot sooner.

A nice e-bike can get a lot of people around towns, doing longer distances and in greater comfort than on a bike. Even with GPS and all the technology that it takes to get them working, it is still relatively simple to do and can be implemented right now. It might also play well with Uber's other services. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi explains:

“Our ultimate goal is one we share with cities around the world: making it easier to live without owning a personal car. Achieving that goal ultimately means improving urban life by reducing congestion, pollution and the need for parking spaces.”

Jump Bike© JUMP

Bikes or e-bikes are not for everybody, and the bike infrastructure has to be improved just about everywhere, But they could be used by a major chunk of the population. And unlike other more elaborate technologies like self-driving cars or hyperloops, they are not dependent on massive investments and reinventing wheels. There are still problems to be solved, like getting them in the right place, keeping them maintained and charged, but those are trivial compared to those of implementing autonomous vehicles.

JUMP is new, but is run by Ryan Rzepecki, who has been working with dockless electric bikes for years, and as Social Bicycles has deployed over 12,000 dockless bikes in 40 cities across 6 countries. Rzepecki writes an interesting paragraph where he admits worry about working with Uber, a company known for a rapacious and unsavoury reputation.

When we first began talking to Uber they were going through an extremely difficult time, with negative headlines each week and a massive change in leadership. We expected to find a toxic work environment and a broken culture. Instead, everyone we met was smart, passionate, and genuinely wanted to help our team succeed. Through our collaboration, we realized that we shared Uber’s vision of multi-modal mobility and had the same goal of decreasing car ownership. Even more importantly, we could see the shift in the company once Dara was named CEO as he began leading with humility and in a way that we felt reflected our values.

Ryan concluded that "combining JUMP’s track record of product innovation and city partnerships with Uber’s scale, operational excellence, and resources will allow us to make a global impact faster than if we were to pursue our vision alone."

I look forward to trying them in my city.

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