Monica Nickelsburg reports that the Jump bikes, now acquired by Lime but, confusingly, still painted red and using the Jump Uber app, are back on the streets this week.

Credit: Jump

The Lime brand has largely pivoted to scooters worldwide, but here in Seattle they’re still waiting for the City to figure out how scooter permits will work. “Hopefully we will see scooters in the next couple of months”, said Jonathan Hopkins, Director of Strategic Development at Lime.

The initial deployment of 500 bikes, all electric, will cost $1 plus 36 cents per minute to rent. This is quite a bit more than Lime’s rate last summer of 25 cents per mile minute. But then again, transit alternatives have deteriorated a bit, in both frequency and perceived safety. For comparison, a typical UberX fare might be $2.20 plus $1.60 per mile, which may be a wash depending on how fast you ride, and how much you mind being in a car with a stranger.

I don’t know how this will play out. I thought that the killer app for these bikes was the last mile to and from transit services, but that’s less compelling now for several reasons. Are there enough people moving around our denser areas in situations where a personal bike, car, or taxi service aren’t more economical, convenient, and hygenic?

22 Replies to “The bikes are back”

  1. “This is quite a bit more than Lime’s rate last summer of 25 cents per mile.”

    This was per minute, not per mile. The linked article confirms this.

  2. At this price, you could practically run a service where the customer rides their own bike and pays an Uber driver to transport it back in a car. At which point, you have to start asking what’s the point of the whole thing? If I want a bike, it’s to save money over car-based alternatives. If a bike costs just as much to ride in as a taxi, one may as well just ride in a taxi.

    At these prices, I do not see a public mobility benefit to justify giving the companies use of the sidewalk space.

    1. Major Caveat: Uber is still a heavily subsidized service that isn’t necessarily expected to make a profit any time soon. Uber is actually much more expensive than the fares would suggest. Probably much closer to a “legacy” metered taxi than we’d like to admit. Meanwhile, bike share is being run with rates set to at least try to make a profit. If Seattle or King County were to subsidize bike share as an integrated component of the transit system (and an arguably safer one during the pandemic!), rates would be much lower–cheaper than bus rides.

      1. The legacy taxis had a pricing formula that tended to undercharge some trips and overcharge others, the result being some customers effectively subsidizing others with different travel patterns. For instance, it tended to undercharge very short trips, and overcharge longer trips, a figure which is exacerbated by tipping, in which customers who are already overcharged are expected to leave a larger tip.

        For instance, $5 to go a few blocks downtown in heavy traffic is probably not sufficient to compensate the driver for having to fight traffic for 15 minutes to reach the pick-up point. On the other hand, somebody cruising down I-90 from downtown to Issaquah at midnight is expected to fork over $50 for 25 minutes of the driver’s time, using maybe a half-gallon of gas (~$1.50). From the driver’s perspective, it may average out in the aggregate. But, from a customer’s perspective, it results in people with some travel patterns being consistently overcharged, while customers with other travel patterns are consistently undercharged.

        Uber and Lyft tend to have a fairer pricing scheme where you pay for the overhead of being picked up and less for each mile being cruised at 60 mph.

  3. Uber and Grubhub will bring food to people’s homes, why not branch out into delivering Lime and Jump bikes and scooters?

  4. Well it was fun while it lasted. I eagerly await the day bikeshare is eliminated from our streets entirely

    1. Me too. I don’t understand how they’re not profitable at this insane price but I was really enjoying the open sidewalks here in Fremont. I guess enough Google/Tableau workers in the neighborhood don’t care about the price nor do they care about leaving them all over the place.

  5. Why do we still not have scooters yet? It is clearly cost-prohibitive to maintain a network of free-floating bikes in an 84 square mile city. Scooters can be maintained for a much lower cost because they have less moving parts and more can fit in maintenance vehicles. Just give us scooters already.

    1. Is scooter share that much cheaper to run than bikeshare? The scooter share rates in other cities are still quite expensive.

      If anything, the same per minute rate on a scooter is actually more expensive because the speeds are slower and you have to pay for more minutes to get anywhere.

    2. Remember when Lime tried to bully Seattle into scooter rentals, despite (1) scooters being a demonstrably bad thing to unleash on us and (2) every other scooter rental company hemorrhaging money and pulling out of markets?

      I’m glad Seattle fended them off as long as they did. Scooter share in other cities were becoming an annoying, dangerous and completely unnecessary nuisance. The pandemic put a nail in the coffin of Seattle scooter share and probably for the remaining markets in which they still technically exist.

      Scooters can be maintained for a much lower cost because they have less moving parts….

      *citation needed*

      When the bike battery goes dead, you can continue to pedal the bike, albeit slowly. It also takes a catastrophic failure for a bike to no longer pedal. Plus, the parts that fail (shifters, brakes, wheels, chains) are cheap and easily replaceable, unlike a motor.

      Compare to an electric scooter, where if the battery dies or the motor craps out, you’re walking.

      1. Scooters take up less space and do not obstruct sidewalks the way that the bikes do.

        These are last-mile solutions for combining with transit, which will be more important than ever with reduced headways making 2-seat rides more difficult.

      2. Scooters take up less space…

        True.

        …and do not obstruct sidewalks the way that the bikes do.

        Bikes aren’t supposed to obstruct sidewalks either, but here we are. It’s more of the lack of personal and/or corporate responsibility that results in obstructions, not the object itself. Go to any city that allows scooter share and you’ll see scooters blocking sidewalks as well.

        These are last-mile solutions for combining with transit, which will be more important than ever with reduced headways making 2-seat rides more difficult.

        Seems like walking or biking already have that covered, meaning scooter share is a (terrible) solution in search of a problem.

  6. Can we get the bikes and scooters (back) on the Eastside (ie Bothell, Redmond, Bellevue)?
    And maybe add jump to Woodinville and Kirkland?

    1. At these prices, for what purpose? You’d still end up paying the equivalent of riding in an Uber car to get anywhere, and the car service on the eastside is already there. Plus, with just 500 bikes scattered throughout the entire eastside, you’d be very unlikely to happen to find one where you need one that is actually in working conditions.

  7. So a 10 minute bike rental costs more than bus fare with it’s one hour transfer window? I’m not understanding the business plan of: buy bikes, sell bikes, crush bikes, buy bikes, repeat.

  8. One factor that is bothersome in particular about the $1 unlock fee is that anytime the bike has a problem which you don’t notice until you unlock it, you’ve already committed to paying the fee, even if the bike is unrideable. If you end up swapping it out with another bike, you get charged an additional unlock fee. From Uber’s perspective, all these unlock fees for 30-second trips on unrideable bikes add up, and provide a nice revenue stream. In some ways, this actually provides them with a perverse incentive to *not* fix the bikes which have problems. With Lime, I found this happening quite a lot.

    While it was, with Lime, theoretically possible to contact customer service and get such charges removed, in practice, it’s almost never worth the effort because it ends up being 10-15 minutes of your time, just to save $1.

    Yet another annoyance about the unlock fee is that it means that if somebody decides to park a bike in front of your home or business in a way that’s causing an obstruction, you have to pay the fee to move the bike out of the way, if waiting hours or days for the company to move it is unacceptable. Again, you should not have to pay for the privilege of volunteering to fix somebody else’s parking problems.

  9. “you have to pay the fee to move the bike out of the way”

    Not really, it’s pretty easy to just pick them up. How do you think they get chucked into the lake so often?

    1. Yes, you can pick them up. But, they’re heavy and it’s not easy. It’s a lot easier to just unlock them with the app, move them over a few feet, and lock them again.

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