Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, says the company’s mission is “bringing together multiple modes of transportation within the Uber app — so that you can choose the fastest or most affordable way to get where you’re going, whether that’s in an Uber, on a bike, on the subway, or more.” This week, Uber announced it has acquired JUMP, a bike-sharing company created in 2010 by Ryan Rzepecki. The JUMP fleet now consists of 12,000 bikes in 40 cities and 6 countries around the world, including an electric bike fleet in San Francisco. The terms of the deal have not been made public, although TechCrunch suggests a figure of $100 million is the best guess among those who are supposed to know such things.
JUMP and Uber have been working for several months to integrate the bike-sharing option into the Uber app so that it appears in the top left corner of the screen whenever a customer opens the app. JUMP began operating its electric bike-sharing service in San Francisco in January, a city known for its challenging terrain that can make bike riding an ordeal. Having an electric motor gives JUMP a competitive advantage over its competitors such as Motivate’s Ford GoBike.
Jump also offers the convenience of being dockless, meaning customers can leave the bikes anywhere in the city provided they are locked to a bike rack or utility pole. According to Mercury News, the company plans to charge the bikes at a central warehouse until such time as bike chargers are available at convenient locations within the city. Riders pay a monthly subscription fee to access the JUMP bike share fleet.
Horror stories about dockless shared bikes being abandoned in vacant lots, parked in trees, or discarded in waterways have been circulating around the internet in the past few years. Complaints about the bikes blocking sidewalks so they become a hindrance to pedestrians are common in cities where dockless bike-sharing has been tried. The JUMP bicycles come with a built-in U lock that can be used to secure them when riders are done riding them. Presumably customers who do not secure the bikes properly will suffer a penalty sufficient to prevent such bad behavior.
Oddly enough, waving a fistful of dollars under Ryan Rzepecki’s nose was not sufficient to close the deal. Uber was tainted by a number of scandals while founder Travis Kalanick was in charge. Rzepecki tells The Verge, “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. It soon became clear that with such strong synergies and alignment on mission, JUMP could better accomplish its goals if it were part of Uber.”
JUMP presently has 250 of its bright red electric bikes available in San Francisco and will add another 250 in nine months. The city’s transit authority will monitor the program over the next 18 months to see if the company can solve the issues that have plagued dockless bike-sharing in other cities. Motivate, which operates a fleet of Ford GoBikes, has the exclusive right to operate a bike-sharing service in San Francisco. It consented to the JUMP trial on a one-time basis, so what will happen at the end of the 18-month trial period is unclear.
Ryan Rzepecki is very clear about his objectives, however. “Our goal is to deliver something that riders find to be amazing,” he says. “If we deliver a solution that’s low cost and affordable and they feel super-human while riding, we’ll be able to create enough momentum to expand.”