SAN FRANCISCO – Six months after jumping into the bikesharing game, Uber has made a fascinating discovery: New riders taking a spin on its red Jump electric bikes in San Francisco are more likely to continue riding the bikes instead of hopping in one of its ubiquitous cars.
In other words, Uber is disrupting itself – and the company says it couldn’t be happier about it.
“This is having a positive impact on the things cities care about, notably congestion and reducing carbon,” said Andrew Salzberg, who leads transportation policy and research at Uber. “Those [things] are exciting.”
That news came as Uber rival Lyft said it was beefing up its background checks for drivers.
Uber isn’t alone in feeling that way. Mobility advocates said Uber’s findings show people will happily take two wheels instead of four if given the chance — something the company hopes will lead cities to loosen restrictions on bikeshare fleets.
Uber started dabbling in e-bikes in February when it first allowed users to book rides on a Jump bike through its app. As of July 1, overall trips by new Jump riders on the Uber platform climbed 15%, even as their trips in cars and SUVs declined 10%.
The greatest shift away from cars occurred each weekday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., when traffic congestion is at its worst. Uber and Jump anticipated that, figuring that passengers would seek alternatives to slogging through gridlock in a car.
“This validated a lot of things we thought would be true and hoped would be true,” Jump Bikes CEO Ryan Rzepecki said. “To see an increase in the overall engagement with the Uber platform was positive, and to tangibly see a mode shift happening.”
Uber, which acquired Jump in April, expects to see similar findings in the five other cities where it offers e-bikes. Many of those cities strictly limit how many bicycles bikeshare outfits can provide. Uber hopes those cities might ease their restrictions once they see how startups such as Jump can ease congestion and reduce pollution.
“People who are serious about moving people more efficiently and fighting congestion should be leaning into the idea of allowing modes like bikes and scooters to be prevalent,” Salzberg said.
Transportation experts said Uber’s data underscores the potential of electric bicycles to remake cities.
Lyft to beef up driver background checks
Ridesharing company Lyft said Wednesday that it’s beefing up its background checks after a driver arrested for rape was found to be in the United States illegally.
The company’s “enhanced detection processes” will apply to new applicants and existing drivers, Lyft spokeswoman Kate Margolis said. She declined to discuss the changes in detail.
San Francisco Police arrested Lyft driver Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 36, last week and charged him with raping four women who he lured to his car pretending to be their rideshare driver. The company fired Vilchez Lazo on Friday, Margolis said.
Margolis and police investigators said there’s no evidence Vilchez Lazo was on duty when the attacks occurred.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said Vilchez Lazo was living in the country illegally and that it planned to deport him to his native Peru if he was ever released from jail in the United States. He is being held without bail and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.