Pedal to the metal: Uber buys an e-bike sharing startup

by Ben Pena April 10, 2018, 19:01
Pedal to the metal: Uber buys an e-bike sharing startup

"At our core, we are still the same team that is passionate about partnering with cities to increase cycling", he said in his Medium post, "but joining Uber presents us with the opportunity to realize our dreams faster and at a much larger scale".

TechCrunch reports that the deal was valued at close to $200 million.

The French court said Uber had broken the 2014 "Thevenoud law", which says chauffeured services run through an online portal have to return to a base between fares, and that they can't use apps to find customers. JUMP bikes are an evolution of bike sharing that bridges the gap between cars and bikes.

With its own user base and JUMP's cycles, it's possible that Uber could avoid the bubble-burst that's bitten outfits like Chinese operator Bluegogo, which collapsed in November 2017. First off, the bikes are electric bikes (or e-bikes). Users can plan their ride-share trips around where there are available bikes given the bikes are GPS-enabled.

Uber is best known for its four-wheeled vehicles, but the ride-sharing company's vision of future transit evidently includes two-wheelers as well. Its dockless system requires users to lock bikes to lamp posts or other streetside structures with an included U-lock when they are done riding, unlike other dockless programs where bikes can be left nearly anywhere.

At the same time, the move into dockless bikes could reenforce skepticism from opponents who say un-docked bikes clutter city streets and sidewalks, and encourage theft and vandalism.

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Why would Uber buy a bike-share company?

Uber is making a big push into bicycles.

Currently, JUMP is the only dockless bike sharing company that's permitted to operate in San Francisco, and for the moment that operation is relatively small in scale.

Dockless bikes self-lock and can be parked anywhere, rather than in a station, as Citi Bikes are. It also expects to expand to 500 bikes in San Francisco in September. The ruling means a French court was within its rights to fine Uber a couple years back for running an illegal transport service.

According to The New York Times, Uber execs were impressed not only by the high utilization rate (six or seven times per day) of the 250 red bikes distributed throughout the city, but also how the average distance (2.6 miles) closely aligned with the average for an Uber ride.

As Reuters notes, this acquisition could potentially put Uber back on the map in worldwide markets where it has struggled.

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