Now Playing

As Ford Slaps Its Logos on Bay Area Share Bikes, Another Challenger Enters the Field

Pedal power to the people.

 

Prepare to see more bikers zooming past your side mirrors while you’re stuck in traffic because two Bay Area bike-sharing operations, each hoping to make bikes accessible to more low-income San Franciscans, launched this week. JUMP, which on Monday rolled out 100 bikes in San Francisco and 50 in San Mateo, is an electric bike-share program funded by a UC Berkeley research grant. The second is Ford GoBikes, a major expansion to the Bay Area Bike Share (or, as we like to call it, BABS) program that utilizes an app and stations across San Francisco and the Bay.

Originally announced last September, GoBikes, sponsored by Ford, debuts its expansion plan today. GoBikes will increase its fleet from 700 to 7,000 bikes by the end of next year with new stations being deployed on a rolling basis in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, and Emeryville through the summer. With prices ranging from $3 a day to $149 a month and a discounted membership for low-income riders, it will be similar to other urban bike-sharing programs, says Jessica Robinson, the director of city solutions at Ford, with a few small (and very welcome) tweaks. Foremost among them, riders will be able to link their Clipper cards to the GoBikes, making it easier to go from BART to bike and back. 

With one-seventh the number of bikes and no splashy corporate sponsor, JUMP is the David to GoBikes’ Goliath. Currently riders can snag a JUMP by invite only (invite yourself to the party here). During this preview period, bikers can test the electric-bike waters by using them for free; after the free use, riders will pay $1 every 15 minutes. JUMP, however, isn’t trying to lure every commuter. Instead, it’s focused on bringing wheels to the Mission—a popular market—and the Bayview, a community historically underserved by transit. 

Because of this, unlike traditional bike-share programs, JUMP doesn’t park its e-bikes at fixed stations. Instead, riders can find a JUMP bike near them by using the company’s app (which is also equipped with unlocking technology). The sporadic whereabouts of the bikes and lack of set stations makes JUMP a little less convenient for would-be bikers, but keeps the focus on the transit-starved San Franciscans the company is targeting. JUMP wants to add recharging stations around the city and expand, but since it isn’t currently permitted by the city those dreams may have to wait.

This mission to bring pedals to the people all began with a $735,000 grant from the SFMTA to UC Berkeley to study electric bikes as a viable mode of transit, explains Ryan Rzepecki, CEO and founder of JUMP. The company’s fledgling fleet of red e-bikes is the guinea pig for that study, and while neither electric bikes nor bike sharing are new, Rzepecki thinks JUMP’s competitive edge comes from sensors in the electric bikes’ pedals, which can measure effort “and can give you a boost.” San Francisco’s infamous 10 percent–grade hills “are no problem,” Rzepecki explains. 

The news of new bike share programs calls back headlines from earlier this year about Bluegogo, the “rogue” bike-share startup that infuriated the city. Bluegogo’s plans to flood the city with bikes (without going through the proper bureaucratic channels) put off many officials and led to abandoned bikes on the street and continued pushback to this day. Unlike Bluegogo, JUMP is operating more openly—its grant came from the SFMTA—and Rzepecki isn’t about to become a second cautionary tale. He says that JUMP is “more actively engaged,” adding, “We’re getting out in the community and talking to people.” 

Whether that will translate to little red bikes beyond the Mission and Bayview (it hopes to expand to 1,000 bikes in the city and 100 in San Mateo by the end of this year) remains to be seen. But what isn’t in doubt is that we could all use a little boost with those 10 percent–grade hills.

 

Have feedback? Email us at letterssf@sanfranmag.com
Email Ayah Mouhktar at amouhktar@modernluxury.com
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Ayah Mouhktar on Twitter @ayahffm