To the relief of some and the frustration of others, there’s a new bicycle boom in the United States. Whether in the form of scooters or bikes, new technology is helping a growing pool of urbanites get around town.
Uber is now encouraging customers to use bicycles instead of cars for short city trips. The ride-sharing service acquired Jump bikes, a startup that offers electronic bikes in congested cities like Chicago, Austin, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The bikes have built-in locks that don’t require a dock and cost a few dollars for a half-hour. They’re now available through Uber’s main app.
“During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times. “We’re able to shape behavior in a way that’s a win for the user. It’s a win for the city.”
Uber also invested in Lime, a similar e-scooter service, earlier this summer. Meanwhile, rival ride-sharing service Lyft followed suit with the purchase of Motivate, a company that oversees bike-sharing programs for major cities, including New York’s CitiBike and San Francisco’s Ford GoBike system. While bike and scooter sharing isn’t as profitable as car rides — at least individually — they allow ride-sharing companies to diversify services and expand their customer base.
Pedestrians, however, have shown their frustration with sharing sidewalks with a sudden influx of two-wheeled vehicles. Some critics admit the emerging form of transportation has its place, but a more organized system of parking is required. San Francisco famously faced a backlash of e-scooters with people gleefully trashing them, figuratively and literally, on social media. With self-locking systems, the vehicles were often parked and left in inconvenient spaces, whether in front of businesses, in the middle of sidewalks or even in front of wheelchair ramps.
The problem stems from bike and scooter companies launching early in cities like San Francisco and St. Louis by asking forgiveness rather than permission. Suddenly, the vehicles were being used on city streets — by the hundreds — without regulations in place. With the investment of major tech and transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, perhaps this new era of public transportation will see a smoother rollout in more cites, including the big prize — New York.