Uber is getting in on the latest sharing economy trend: bike sharing. The company is teaming up with Jump, an electric bike-sharing startup based out of New York. Together, the two are running a pilot in San Francisco that ostensibly tests the desire for this product.
Shared bikes, both pedal-assist and the good old leg-powered kind, are cropping up in cities all over the country. They often follow a path carved out of docked bike stations that are run by a company called Motivate—and branded under another name like Ford GoBike or Citi Bike. But the new trend is dock-less bikes: a system of on-demand bikes scattered around cities, left on sidewalks and unlocked through an app. The latter is what Uber is getting into through its new partnership.
Though a more consumer-focused approach to bike sharing, it comes with its own problems. Namely, these hoards of bikes can become a public nuisance. China, which embraced bike sharing earlier than the United States, has developed a noticeable pileup of bikes on sidewalks. Already, similar things are happening in U.S. markets like Seattle, where a number of dock-less bike startups are already competing for riders.
Uber and Jump hope to avoid the pile-up issue by creating zones within which people are supposed to leave bikes when they’re finished using them. However, without penalties, it’s unclear that people will abide by these rules.