Uber is testing out a program that lets some mobile customers reserve a motorized bicycle instead of a car to get around San Francisco more easily, per CNBC. Next week, the company will add a “bike” option in a drop-down menu for select users willing to pay $2 for 30 minutes and then a per-minute fee after that.
Uber won’t supply the bikes and instead will work with Jump Bikes, a bike-sharing service that last month got a permit to put 250 motorized bikes in locations throughout the city. But the bikes don’t have designated pickup and drop-off stations like Ford GoBikes in the Bay Area or Citi Bikes in New York. People can park the bikes at a bike rack or on sidewalks.
Uber will target customers who travel within the areas of the city where the bikes are available, and let more customers get on a waitlist. Uber said it expects to serve “thousands” of people, but didn’t provide more specific estimates or say if the program would be offered in other cities, per CNBC.
Uber’s bike-sharing program may be significant for the company if it means that its ride-hailing platform is part of a broader business of transportation solutions that may eventually include driverless vehicles. For many city residents, bicycles are a less expensive and quicker alternative to driving in gridlocked cities (that have grown more crowded with ride-sharing cars sitting idle, as the New York Times reported).
Uber has ambitions to expand its service offerings, as seen with its Uber Eats program to provide food delivery services for restaurants including McDonald’s. Uber has even tested the idea of “virtual restaurants” that let restaurateurs re-brand themselves for other kinds of food specialties (for example, a pizza place with a deep fryer can start making fried chicken for delivery in areas that don’t have a chicken restaurant). As ride-hailing evolves into an established business strategy, it is becoming more competitive, meaning Uber needs to find new ways to continue to grow.
It remains to be seen whether the bike-sharing program helps serve a real need, or becomes a nuisance for pedestrians. The Jump bikes can be left on the sidewalk, ideally without blocking pedestrians. Cities like Dallas are grappling with how to deal with bikes left wherever riders feel like abandoning them, CNBC reported.