Social Bicycles, maker of the Jump pedal-assist e-bikes that don’t require docking stations, has received a permit from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to launch 250 dockless electric bikes in San Francisco sometime between now and the end of March. This is the first permit the city has issued to an electric, stationless bike-share provider.
“Jump Bikes has demonstrated a commitment to San Francisco’s priorities of providing a safe, equitable and accountable bike share system and is the only company to have fulfilled the requirements of the SFMTA’s stationless bike share permit application,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post.
Jump’s bikes can be legally locked to bike parking racks or the “furniture zone of the sidewalk,” which is where you see things like light poles, benches and utility poles. The bikes also come with integrated locks to secure the bikes.
But since stationless bike-sharing is pretty new, the SFMTA will use this 18-month period to evaluate, collect data and assess if a program like this will work in the longer-term. Similar to what the SFMTA did around car-sharing, the aim is to better understand the needs and impacts of this type of mobility service.
More specifically, the SFMTA will be evaluating the use of existing bike-share systems to identify places where the city should promote stationless bike-share, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told TechCrunch. The SFMTA will also access the impact of stationless bike-share “on the public right-of-way, including maintaining accessible pedestrian paths of travel, as well as the enforcement/maintenance burden on city staff,” Rose said.
The conditions of Jump’s permits require that it provide the SFMTA with enough data to make an evaluation. The evaluation will result in policy recommendations for stationless bike-share services moving forward, including any necessary amendments to the SF Transportation Code. After the first nine months of the program, the SFMTA may allow Jump to add an additional 250 bikes to its fleet.
“Over the past few months, we’ve been working closely with the SFMTA and local community groups to design a solution that not only brings e-bikes to the challenging streets of San Francisco but does so in a responsible and accessible way for its many neighborhoods,” Social Bicycles CEO Ryan Rzepecki said in an emailed statement to TechCrunch. “JUMP Bikes is extremely proud to have been selected to receive the first electric bike share permit from the city and we’re even more excited to announce the upcoming launch of this system in the near future.”
This permit comes after Jump conducted a test pilot last year with 100 bikes in the Bayview neighborhood in San Francisco. What Social Bicycles is doing, Rzepecki told me on the podcast CTRL+T, is “going in and trying to put equity first.” Regarding the tech audience and other potential early adopters, “they will come naturally.”
This week has been a busy one for bike-sharing startups. Just yesterday, Motivate (makers of Ford GoBikes), LimeBike and Spin announced pedal-assist e-bikes. Motivate plans to roll out a pilot program of 250 e-bikes in San Francisco in April, while LimeBike will start launching e-bikes this month in Miami, Seattle and the greater San Francisco area. Spin, on the other hand, will launch its e-bikes in Miami and on the campuses of University of California San Diego and Rochester Institute of Technology.
While the SFMTA has this pilot program in place with Social Bicycles, the agency will not issue any other stationless bike-share permits. That means if a startup like Spin or LimeBike wants to launch their stationless bikes in San Francisco during the 18-month period the SFMTA is piloting the program with Jump, they’ll be out of luck.
Still, it seems that the SFMTA envisions a city where Motivate’s Ford GoBikes and Jump bikes are friends. The SFMTA sees Jump bikes as complementing the Ford GoBike system, which recently announced it will add electric bikes to its San Francisco fleet in April.
“Combined with the Ford GoBike expansion, the JUMP pilot allows for an unprecedented growth in shared bikes in San Francisco, with the SFMTA taking measures to study and manage the impact of bike share on San Francisco’s streets,” the agency wrote.
If you want to hear more about bike-sharing and the competition, be sure to check out the latest episode of CTRL+T with Rzepecki. You also can hear me talk about what it was like when I rode around the hilly streets of San Francisco on a Jump bike.