In the Middle of a Bike Shortage, Uber Shreds Thousands of Jump E-Bikes

People riding jump e-bikes on street

Horacio Villalobos / Getty Images

Why are they doing this?

One of my co-workers asked for some advice on buying an e-bike; I suggested a few brands and she checked them out, only to find that it would take months to get delivery. Finally, she found one that she could get in six weeks. Everywhere in North America, there is a shortage of bikes and e-bikes because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as you can see in this Twitter video, Uber is shredding about 20,000 Jump e-bikes. This is after Uber gave up on Jump and sold it to Lime, the scooter company.

Aaron Gordon of Vice tried to figure out what was happening; Lime told him they had nothing to do with it.

“As part of the JUMP acquisition, we took possession of tens of thousands of e-bikes—including the spare parts and tools to fix them—and have already begun to deploy them,” a Lime spokesperson told Motherboard. “We have not recycled any of the JUMP e-bikes in our fleet and are committed to scaling and operating them during this critical time.”

Uber says they only kept the old models and had no choice but to scrap them.

We explored donating the remaining, older-model bikes, but given many significant issues—including maintenance, liability, safety concerns, and a lack of consumer-grade charging equipment—we decided the best approach was to responsibly recycle them.
Jump 5.5 bike
 Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But at Bike Share Museum, where they know the ins and outs of every e-bike model, they say that's not true. The current model is the 5.5, and they write:

The current 5.5 is the one being scrapped by the containerload. As of 5/27, anywhere from 18 to 30 (depending on the source – see Aaron W. Gordon’s article at Vice) trailers of bicycles have been delivered to Foss Recycling of North Carolina. According to Aaron’s research, the scrapping contract is neither with UBER or Lime, but with Blue Sky Trading, a battery recycler.

Lime is evidently getting a smattering of 5.5 bikes and the new prototype 5.8 bikes, which are still in beta and not quite working properly yet.

The new 5.8 has chipsets with firmware built into almost everything. Even the taillight has to talk to the other boards, or it will not unlock or power up. It is arguably the most technologically progressive dockless bicycle ever built, and all of the code and engineering behind this firmware was executed entirely in-house by JUMP techs.
And UBER fired every last JUMP engineer that designed the system.

Apparently, it is all about killing Jump, "destroying every bike they can, and slowly taking Lime down in the process.” Kurt of Bikeshare Museum describes what we have been saying about Uber forever:

We also can’t emphasize enough how disgusting it is for UBER to scrap 20,000 bicycles in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic where bicycles have literally become an object of survival. Heavy as they are, these could be transportation for the many who have been brought to financial ruin during COVID-19.

Jon Orcutt of Bike New York wondered “even if there isn’t a city government with the chops to convert unwanted Jumps into a new/used e-bike share system, why not at least peel the decals off and sell the bikes to individuals?” He also says that the bikes have a reputation for being really well made.

Jump bike in Paris
 Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I can attest to that; when I was in Paris last year I checked the 5.5 Jump out, and unlike a lot of bikes used for bike-sharing, these were solid, cleverly designed bikes.

cable lock built into bike
Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The built-in locking mechanism was really clever; I was impressed with the whole package. But Uber has become so adept at screwing people and burning through billions of their investor's money that they probably didn't give a moment's thought to doing the right, sustainable or even possibly profitable thing by selling or donating the bikes.

When Uber bought Jump I thought it was a good thing, putting big money into a little San Francisco company. I quoted the new and improved CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi:

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.

All so noble and virtuous. And now they send them to the shredder.

Green Lime e-bike
Paul Wasneski / Flickr / Public Domain

It's hard to know what they are doing here, buying Jump, selling Jump, shredding all the Jump bikes. It's an expensive way to destroy an alternative to taking an Uber car. Some suspect that Lime is ramping up production of their own e-bikes and it was all a deal to get rid of their competition, but their bikes look pretty awful in comparison.

I suppose at some point the truth will out, and we will learn why Uber did this, and what Lime's role really was, given that they were buying a bike-share company, and it is kind of the point to get the bikes. All I know is that it is an incredible waste of some really nice bikes, and I have yet another reason to hate Uber.