Didi Chuxing, China's bigger equivalent to Uber, recently muscled into the booming dockless bike-share sector, and now Uber itself is making tentative steps into the app-based hiring of "free floating" bicycles.
"At Uber, our vision for the future is one where everyone, wherever they live and whatever their income, has access to affordable, reliable transportation," said the company's transportation policy and research lead Andrew Salzberg in a statement earlier today.
"Starting next week," he added, "we’re taking another step towards our vision, by piloting Uber Bike by Jump – a bike share option – in San Francisco."
New York-based Jump Bikes has 250 pedal-assist bikes in the Californian city. Those with the Uber app on their smartphones will soon be able to book and pay for hiring these bikes via a nine-month pilot scheme. There will be a “bike” option in the app’s menu located at the top left corner of the home screen.
"Having a greater variety of transportation modes at your fingertips helps make it increasingly easy to live life without a car," said Salzberg.
"We’re particularly excited about bikes because they can provide a convenient, environmentally friendly ride even in dense cities where space is limited and roads can be congested."
Jump CEO Ryan Rzepecki said: "The team that we’ve worked with at Uber have been great partners and have provided insight, talent, resources, and a passion for biking that has blown us away.
"Our collective task now is to analyze and optimize usage as best as we can given that Jump is limited to 250 bikes in San Francisco for the next nine months.
He added: "The goal for both Jump and Uber is to connect more parts of the city and offer an affordable alternative to other modes of transportation. If successful, we’ll have surprised a few people along the way and will introduce them to a new transportation option that they love."
Jump was previously known as Social Bicycles and, over the past eight years, has deployed 15,000 non-electric bikes in over 40 US cities including Portland, Atlanta, Santa Monica, and New Orleans. (It has also supplied dockless bikes in Brighton in the UK.)
"We’ve gained tremendous experience but also realized that to accelerate the adoption of bicycles as a daily mode of transportation we would need to electrify them," said Rzepecki, a former urban transportation planner.
"Where Jump electric bikes are on the streets we’re seeing riders travel three-times the distance per ride in comparison to a regular bike. Jump bikes are an evolution of bike sharing that bridges the gap between cars and bikes. Partnering with Uber allows both companies to explore a future where shared bikes and shared rides work together to reduce car ownership by providing the right solution for each trip."