The cost of riding JUMP bikes can vary depending on where you are. A JUMP bike ride around New York City’s Central Park Full Loop (approximately 6.1 miles) is about $5. Riding one across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Loop (7.5 miles) is less than $2.
JUMP is one of several bike-share companies that have popped up all over the U.S., and around the world, and users love how affordable they are. But what are these bike sharing systems, and why are they all over the place these days?
Bike-share is a free or paid service that makes bicycles publicly available for shared use by individuals on a short-term basis. This article takes a look at how JUMP began, from the very first bike-share systems to how the company has evolved into the lucrative business it is today.
How JUMP Bikes Began
The founder of JUMP, Ryan Rzepecki, drew inspiration from an early Paris-based “smart” public bike-share system called Vélib’, which operated from July 2007 to December 2017. Vélib’ was run by the French advertising corporation JCDecaux. During its prime, the system had 14,500 bikes and 1,230 bike stations, making it the 12th-largest bike-share program in the world. (The other top companies are in China.)
Rather than keeping the bikes in set stations, however, Rzepecki, who was getting a master’s degree in urban planning at Hunter College at the time, thought it would be better to place all technology on the bike itself.
Rzepecki’s reasons were sound — this potentially lower-cost system would enable bikes to be parked in any spot within the city, and easily unlocked using a mobile app.
Once he completed his studies and internship with the New York Department of Transportation, Rzepecki founded Social Bicycles in 2010. Together with a small team, the company launched its first bike designs in 2013. They then pivoted from selling bikes to operating their own fleet (rebranded as JUMP) in 2017, and were acquired by Uber for a reported $200 million in 2018.
This relatively new on-demand transportation is referred to as “shared mobility.” Popular examples are Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and Turo. In the case of smaller vehicles of the two-wheeled variety — with their naturally quicker rides and lower fees — the industry has been coined as “micromobility.”
As of December 2016, there were roughly 1,000 cities around the world with a bike-share program. From the first known bike sharing program in Amsterdam (called WhiteBikes) to the largest bike-share in Hangzhou, China (over 65,000 bicycles and 2,700 stations), it’s hard to find yourself in a major city that doesn’t have a bike sharing program.
Early bike-share programs enabled people to borrow bikes from a public station in the city and return it to another station after the ride. These stations not only served as bike racks that locked the bike in place, but they also kept track of the rider’s time usage and payment information.
Newer systems such as JUMP operate without stations. They offer electric bikes (also called e-bikes) or hybrids, full-feature apps, and a number of other conveniences.
What Sets JUMP Bikes Apart
JUMP distinguishes itself by solely operating a fleet of pedal assist e-bikes. The pedal assist technology gives riders a boost (up to 20 mph) when they pedal, and slows down like a regular bike when they stop. Like a physical form of positive reinforcement, the harder you pedal, the faster you’ll go. Most other brands only offer human pedal-powered bikes or both.
The development process of a JUMP bike has been an endeavor of its own. How do you build a bike for such a wide range of cities, and an even wider range of riders?
Currently, the design stands 44 inches tall and about 70 inches wide, with a pair of slightly curved handlebars spanning nearly 25 inches. Its adjustable seat post can extend up to 12 inches, suitable for riders from 4’11” to 6’6” in height.
Each bike comes with a convenient front basket. Its 70-pound aluminum frame is painted in a vibrant candy-apple red (using custom-formulated corrosion-resistant paint, of course).
As for the tech component, JUMP bikes pack a GPS tracking system, a Shimano braking system, and a 250-watt electric motor that powers the front wheel. A fully-charged lithium-ion battery can run for about 30 miles and are removable, allowing depleted batteries to be easily replaced with fresh ones on site (rather than bringing the entire bike to a charging center).
Newer features also include a phone mount for hands-free navigation, retractable cable locks (replacing the bike’s former U-lock system), and large screen displays.
JUMP bikes can be located and unlocked through the JUMP or Uber app, a pin code, or RFID member card, with payments calculated according to time — currently, $2 for the first 30 minutes, and 7 cents for every minute after — and charged to the rider’s Uber account.
On average, a single JUMP bike is ridden 10,000 miles a year, which is 10 times more than a personal bike. To accommodate all this pavement pounding and constant sweat, every element — from tires to saddles — is built and tested for vigorous stress-handling and structural integrity.
There are only slight bike modifications from city to city. For example, in most cities, JUMP bikes are a 3-speed model. But in San Francisco, given the city’s hilly terrain, they are an 8-speed electric drivetrain.
In the Business of Bikes
Thanks to the sharing economy, the humble bike has become a lucrative business. In 2017, five major bike-share companies were launched — LimeBike, MoBike, Ofo, Spin, and JUMP (rebranded from Social Bicycles) — as well as several smaller ones including VBike, LennyBike, Riide, and Donkey Republic.
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, these new companies led to the number of bike-share bikes more than doubling, from 42,500 to 100,000 bikes in just one year. By 2018, more than twice as many trips were taken as compared to the previous year — from 36.5 to 84 million — in the United States alone.
As for JUMP, the company has made equally impressive progress since its February 2018 relaunch in San Francisco.
Of course, the idea for a fleet of stationless bikes that can park anywhere in the city will have a lot of municipal red tape to cut through. Even with its Uber partnership, JUMP’s first pilot program consisted of a relatively small batch of 250 bikes. Still, it received the first permit of its kind issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
The company was given 18 months to test the idea, midway through which another 250 bikes were rolled out. Throughout the program, each JUMP bike saw at least 7-8 rides per day, a significant uptick from the 2-3 rides of most bike-share companies. As for the entire year, JUMP shares that more than 63,000 people took 625,000 rides just within San Francisco.
So even with their reasonable rates and relatively high costs (one JUMP bike costs about $1,000), a single bike can pay for itself in under three months.
JUMP Bikes’s Recent Expansion
Even as the pilot program was in progress, JUMP continued making big moves in the industry. Shortly after being bought by Uber in April 2018, the company began its expansion into Europe, starting with the London borough of Islington.
JUMP also debuted its new electric scooter-sharing system in Santa Monica, California, later in October 2018. To date, JUMP operates within 20 cities in the U.S. and six in Europe — 15 of which offer both e-bikes and e-scooters.
What’s surprising, however, is that bikes have started to rival even Uber’s own car sharing program. In Sacramento, a city that offers both services, JUMP rides have already surpassed Uber rides by 6% a month (53% versus 47%), making it the first city where bike-share is now more popular than car-share.
“We were honestly surprised,” says Alex Hagelin, JUMP’s Launch General Manager. “Uber has been around for years, and in just five months, our bikes were generating more trips. This is the first time we have seen this in any of our cities to date.”
JUMP is currently open to different partnerships, whether it’s a business account for employees, a university mobility hub for students, a custom hub for a property owner’s tenants and guests, or a business owner who wants to open a JUMP charging station.
JUMP and all other bike-share companies have the challenge of appeasing both the city’s officials and its community. Cities may be hesitant to offer stationless bikes to the public, as it may lead to improper use, vandalism, and bikes left cluttered all over the city. Customers, on the other hand, also expect utmost convenience, round-the-clock service, and anything else that helps make their daily commute a better experience.
Whether it’s called shared mobility, micromobility, or another fancy moniker, all of these companies are in the service of public transport. And as such, they are subject to a lot of criticism.
Back in the Saddle
Shared mobility has been a game-changer for individuals without the means, ability, or desire to own a private vehicle. And now, the movement from cars to bikes provides yet another mode of transportation.
In the few years since its relaunch, JUMP has led the way in innovating two-wheeled electric transportation and introducing the idea to cities around the world.
Being stationless and mobile, the company’s transportation solution is perfectly positioned to service more neighborhoods, improve health, decrease air and noise pollution, and reduce mortality risks. You say JUMP, we say how high.