Many drivers complain about the short-distance trips passengers request, since they don’t make us very much money and can sometimes take us away from surge or other busy zones. JUMP Bikes is one company looking to reduce those short mileage trips. In addition, JUMP Bikes is offering a charger program to UberEATS bike couriers, similar to Bird’s Charger program. RSG guest contributor Bryan Goebel explains what JUMP Bikes is, how it works, and the JUMP + UberEATS partnership.
What is Jump Bikes
I’ve been riding a bicycle in San Francisco for more than 20 years, but when I first signed up to do UberEATS by bike, it was grueling work. UberEATS sent me up some of the city’s steepest streets. There were many times I had to conquer those hills on foot and even that wasn’t easy. I’m a stronger and fitter bike courier now, but during those sweaty moments I kept thinking: I sure wish I had an electric bike.
When I started looking into buying an ebike, they were way out of my price range. Most bike couriers I’ve talked also can’t afford a new ebike that costs between $1,500 and $5,000. But then my wish became a reality when JUMP Bikes’ ebike share program launched in San Francisco earlier this year.
How Did JUMP Bikes Get Started?
These sleek, bright red bikes with the white JUMP logo have generated a lot of excitement because they are electric, easy to use and help carry you up hills. It took a minute for the city to approve them because of its exclusive agreement with Ford Go Bike, but they finally gave JUMP the blessing to launch with 250 bikes in January. A similar program is up and running in Washington D.C. with 400 bikes. Soon they’ll launch in Sacramento and Providence.
What’s also cool about these bikes is they are dockless, meaning they don’t have to be returned to a station like many traditional bike share systems. You can lock it to any bike rack or pole within the program’s zone.
Density is what makes any bikeshare program successful, but so far this program is a pilot. JUMP is hoping to expand to 500 bikes in October and would like to see thousands of bikes in San Francisco. JUMP is also great because it takes away the anxiety that your bike might get stolen while you’re out on deliveries!
JUMP’s Background and Acquisition by Uber
JUMP Bikes is the brainchild of Ryan Rzepecki, a former project manager for the New York City Department of Transportation’s bike program. He founded Social Bicycles in 2010, launched the U.S.’s first dockless bike share program in 2012 and now operates dockless systems in more than 40 markets in six countries with a total of 15,000 bikes.
As Rikin Diwan, the marketing manager of JUMP Bikes explained, Rzepecki put the technology and the brains to operate bike share on the bikes themselves, rather than hubs, to lower the costs of the systems and the operations.
JUMP bikes have GPS. You download the JUMP bike share app and a map shows you where the nearest bike is and its battery charge.
It has a computer with a small keyboard on the back, and an internal locking system, two features that are solar powered. You punch in your account number to unlock the bike, or you can use your transit card or any RFID card.
It’s $2 for the first 30 minutes, and prorated at 7 cents a minute thereafter. I’ve also taken advantage of JUMP’s low-income discount. If you qualify for CalFresh, get a PG&E discount or have a SFMTA Lifeline pass, you can join for $5 a year and the program gives you an hour of free rides every day.
The seats are fully adjustable and the bike, weighing a hefty 70 pounds, helps absorb San Francisco’s bumpy streets. After you adjust your seat, pull the U bar out, and tuck it in the side holster, you’re ready to ride.
The bike feels pretty smooth on the city’s treacherous streets, which are always being torn up or in pretty bad condition, and I find myself generally being more aware and careful when I’m on a JUMP bike because it’s so heavy and sturdy. I try to stay at or below 15mph in the bike lane, and if I need to go a little faster and it’s safe to do so, I’ll just go ahead and take the car lane.
So far, according to the team at JUMP, the bikes are so popular they can’t keep up with the demand. The average distance being traveled is about 2.6 miles, which is comparable to short car trips. That gives these bikes high potential to lure people away from car trips because they’re more convenient, and in many cases faster. That’s what makes ebikes so ideal for delivery: you can get to your customer pretty quick, and don’t have to stress about the hills, for the most part.
Earlier this year, JUMP Bikes announced a partnership with Uber in San Francisco, which allows anyone to rent a bike through the Uber app. This should be a great way to replace those short trips with an ebike, and not a short Uber ride, which drivers have often complained about.
Uber recently purchased JUMP Bikes, making this partnership even more solid (and something to keep an eye on).
How to Use JUMP Bikes
JUMP bikes are designated as Class I ebikes, have eight gears and can travel up to 20 mph. While the bikes can theoretically go over 20 mph, they make it difficult for you to do so, as the pedal mechanism slows you down once you reach the top speed. The bikes are pedal assisted, meaning you still have to do quite a bit of work getting up hills, but it makes it so much easier.
Moderate hills are a cinch, but one night I found myself walking the bike up a challenging hill in Pacific Heights, and that wasn’t a breeze because the bike is heavy. I wish I would have had my lightweight Trek with me that night, or that UberEATS wouldn’t have given me an order that requires climbing steep hills on a bicycle.
JUMP Bikes has a team (they’re called balancers) who bring them back to their depot in South of Market for a recharge, which takes about 4 to 6 hours. This is where UberEATS bike couriers come in because JUMP needs help getting its bikes charged, and couriers could use ebikes for faster and easier deliveries.
How to Make Money with JUMP Bikes
Though it’s still a small pilot with a handful of couriers, many of the couriers in the UberEATS + JUMP Bikes recharger program I’ve talked to say using an ebike has been a game changer for them. We take bikes with a battery charged below 45 percent, and bring them back to JUMP’s South of Market depot in exchange for a 10 dollar credit, depending on where the bike came from.
Bike couriers in the recharger program can see all the JUMP bikes with low charges using this map designed by JUMP.
What this means for me and other couriers is that we can use JUMP bikes to do UberEATS without having to worry about the fare. JUMP wants to install charger stations around the city so I’ll just have to return a low-charged bike to the nearest station for a credit. That’ll make it super convenient and not take as much of my time. JUMP Bikes already has the stations designed and ready to go, and is working with property owners and businesses to scout locations.
I’ve experienced some glitches with JUMP Bikes, but it is a pilot after all. The motor has stopped running in the middle of a delivery more than a few times, and I’ve had trouble unlocking the bike. The batteries are usually only good for two to four hours, depending on which neighborhood you’re riding in, and how many hills you have to take.
The support team is friendly and consistently helpful, though, and I’ve usually been able to find a bike within a 20 minute walking distance. That’s not ideal when you’re in the middle of a delivery, but density — just having way more bikes out there – would solve this problem.
Should you use JUMP bikes?
There are also times when it hasn’t been convenient to take a JUMP because there are no bikes available in my neighborhood. Or the nearest bike might be far from me. If I have time, I’ll take Muni or sometimes a Go Bike to get to a JUMP, but again, when the pilot expands and there are more bikes available it’ll be easier and more convenient.
My experience with the JUMP team so far is they are dedicated to their mission and working hard to make this valuable transportation option available to more people.
JUMP Bikes has boundless potential to shift people out of their cars for short trips in San Francisco, and it has been a boon for couriers like myself. They hope to expand their recharger program so that other couriers can join, not only in San Francisco but other cities.
I shift between my regular bike and a JUMP bike now because I still want to use my bike for rigorous exercise. Ultimately, despite the perks of using JUMP as an UberEATS courier, I still wish I had my own ebike to do the work. But does using an ebike help me make more money? I’ll delve into that in Part II.
Readers, have you heard of JUMP Bikes or do you have a similar program in your city? Do you think JUMP will reduce the number of short-mileage trips passengers request?
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-Bryan @ RSG