For the first time since July 2017, no bike share bikes are available in Seattle.
As a consequence of the major investment deal yesterday between Uber and Lime, JUMP and its red bikes now belong to Lime. Though users could unlock the bright red bikes using the Uber app yesterday, today they disappeared. The JUMP app has also been discontinued, and the bikes do not appear on Lime’s app.
So this is a rather depressing and sudden end to Seattle’s free-wheeling, wild and twisting adventure as a hub of private dockless bike share experimentation over the past three years. Companies have ballooned in size and folded. Others pivoted to scooters and left town. And all along, company leaders have played an aggressive growth and acquisition game that has seen them gain huge amounts of venture capital investment at times. But it seems that investor dreams of finding a bike share “unicorn” are long over. Lime, which had been valued around $2.4 billion in early 2019 is now reportedly valued around $500 million.
Lime already pulled its e-bikes from Seattle streets in December, and the company has been essentially shuttered worldwide during the COVID-19 outbreak. Jonathan Hopkins at Lime told the Seattle Times that the bikes would be removed temporarily, but would return at an unknown future date. But given the state of the company and its clear focus on scooters instead of bikes, it’s far from certain the bikes will return.
The sudden loss of bike share is pretty devastating. People in Seattle took 2.2 million bike share rides in 2019. That’s more trips than both Seattle Streetcar lines combined, but at no cost to the city budget. And that entire mode of transportation is just gone now.
JUMP had even been providing free rides to essential workers. With people trying to avoid transit and the cost of owning and operating a car so high, bike share was a good option for a lot of people as a socially-distant way to get around. Bring some disinfectant wipes to clean the parts of the bike you’re going to touch, and you’re good to go.
Whether Lime brings bikes back or not, it’s time to talk about what the next phase of bike share looks like in Seattle. We’ve learned an enormous amount about the potential and challenges of bike share in our city in the past few years. We have seen bike share lead to huge increases in everyday cycling. It’s hard to think of another sustainable transportation program that has created such a swift, low-cost and effective shift in how people move around our city. Losing bike share would be a big step backwards for our city.
14 responses to “Seattle has no bike share now, Lime says it will relaunch bikes at some point”
Time for a publicly funded (or publicly subsidized), dockless bikeshare system with 20,000 bikes?
So… does that mean everything Scott Kubly touched has now officially failed? ;-)
No, the Westlake transit lanes are pretty good. That… might be about it.
I agree with Brock. This is too useful of a tool to let this slide away. At least subsidizing bike share makes it so the operator has a baked in opportunity for oversight and collaboration.
In the meantime, I’m just sad to see investing moves thousands of miles away leave folks without a safe, healthy, and fun way to see their city.
People can still buy their own bike which, during a pandemic, is probably safer, anyway. It costs a fraction of what a car costs, without the need to buy insurance.
Jump bikes boost program was $5 dollars a month for 1 hour free daily, it was then updated to unlimited. I rode those bikes everywhere! Commuting to downtown and back, biking to appts from downtown to Ballard or Wallingford. I just did a fun night ride looping around westlake/eastlake and back to greenlake. Who knew it would be my last ride.
I donated my hybrid commuter bike to a family member as the Jump bikes were just more convenient. Not to say there weren’t without their issues, broken assist, bikes won’t unlock, etc. Been holding off on purchasing an electric bike as using jump bikes were practically free with the boost program. Say it isn’t so! I knew this wouldn’t last forever!
The problem that bike share solved isn’t just solvable by bike share. As asdf2 points out, people can still own their own bicycle and get the advantages that bike share offers. Of course there are other issues related to using personally owned bicycles versus bicycle share but there are significant costs to both. In the post covid world I would expect that people in general would want to do less sharing, so a shared bicycle system is going to encounter headwinds. Assuming there is going to be a pot of money for bicycle share (which I doubt, but let’s play along), maybe that money is better spent helping people own bicycles and also keep them (that is, keep them from getting stolen).
Bicycle ownership: Many people who could afford to use bicycle share will also be able to afford a bicycle. Those that were able to qualify for discount rides would be able to buy a decent, inexpensive but subsidized bicycle.
Bicycle Maintenance: Fund bikeworks style organizations that will provide training and also bicycle maintenance vans that go to the poorer neighborhoods. Perhaps also subsidize tune ups.
Long term rentals: Allow people to rent bicycles for a monthly amount and subsidize those who would qualify for discounted rides.
Build secure bicycle storage: There needs to be a much better solution for locking up your bike so that you will know that it will be there when you get back. I know this is a tall order but it is critical.
Expand capacity for bicycles on buses.
One scalable alternative to bikes on buses is for people to buy a second (cheap) bike and lock it up overnight at the bus stop, so it’s there when you get off. It’s not perfect, but it does work. The key is to use good locks, lock both wheels, and use a very cheap bike, so, even it gets stolen every other year or so, it’s still tolerable.
And on Light Rail. Capacity on Link for bikes is minimal and impractical. They need to add open plan cars for people to stand their bikes and with more room for wheelchairs, strollers,etc. Otherwise you need a bike at both ends of your trip. The current method of hanging your bike up with the handlebars sticking out obstructing the aisles is ludicrous.
The advantage of the Jump bikes was that they were electric. Purchasing an e-bike of your own is expensive, and not covered by most homeowner or rental insurance policies. Shelling out $3k or more for an e-bike is a decision most people are not going to make.
Last June I started taking classes at UW and was excited to be able to use Lime bikes to reduce the time it took me to walk to class by more than half if I was running late for around a dollar. But, the bikes could barely make it up the hill near my house. I started seeing Jump bikes around, tried one, and was pleased that for a bit cheaper they could make it up the hill; the bikes felt more robust and secure in every way. I used them a couple times a week, and even enjoyed the credits for leaving bikes in the return zones if I had some free time. In August I found I could get a student discount for half off. Now, I could ride to the Ave or to campus for around 25 cents. At this price, I did not think 2x about riding one. I enjoy riding bikes a lot, but issues of dealing with a lock, getting sweaty, etc, are resolved by these bike-share programs.
In September, I could no longer rent a bike through Jump. I could find them on the app, but when I tried to actually rent them, it said they were unavailable. I sent multiple messages to support, and was told it was a 3G issue, try again somewhere else. This was not the issue. Since then, I have requested help 3 times, each time my request is passed to multiple people, as I am told they have not forgotten about the issue, until after about 3-4 weeks, I hear nothing back. When i make the request again, its as if they have never heard of me, suspect that the issue is on my end, and eventually the “help” drops off.
It looks like the parent company is doing great, but they do not have their heart in Jump, as they are unable to follow-up or fix issues like this. I know I was just one customer, and at the 50% discount, maybe they flagged me as not profitable, but I do not have faith that they will be able to gain market share and support their customers in the future.
After spending millions of dollars to install bike lanes everywhere in Seattle for a group that only comprises 2% of the population (bike riders) instead of expanding public transportation and cars, which people still do drive, the city has again failed Seattleites. Rain and hills are not an optimum combination to encourage bike-riding. Rideshare bikes were becoming a nuisance on sidewalks and property, as people tossed them carelessly wherever they stopped their ride.Plus, I found it contradictory that if you rode a ride-share bike, all rules were off — no helmets required.
I knew it! Big Wheel’s evil conspiracy strikes again.
The total uselessness of bikes in a city like ours, which Jeanne astutely points out, is presumably why Seattle’s largest e-bike maker’s sales are only up ~300% year on year. Vanmoof is doubling or tripling sales based on country.
Jeanne, if you don’t like bikes now — you’re going to hate our streets a few months.