Seattle announced it’s official, permanent rules for private bike-share operations over the summer, and since then, we’ve been in a state of limbo. Spin and Ofo, choosing not to apply for a long-term permit, pulled out of the city at the end of August—leaving just Lime kicking around until more permits could be approved.
Today, Lime finally gets some competition: Jump, an all-electric fleet owned by Uber, had its permit approved by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) on Friday, and will start placing bikes around Seattle on 6 a.m. Monday morning. The initial fleet size will be 300, but Jump plans to increase incrementally over the coming weeks and months, eventually reaching 5,000 around March, according to its application packet.
“Seattle has been a leader in dockless bike share, so we’re thrilled to bring our Jump electric bikes as the first step towards offering Uber customers a multi-modal transportation platform in this great Northwest city,” said Jump spokesperson Nelle Pierson in a statement. “Bike sharing is an environmentally friendly, affordable way to get around, and a mobility option we believe should be a permanent cornerstone of a city’s transportation system.”
Jump’s e-bikes are $1 to unlock and 10 cents per minute to ride. This is the same price structure as Lime-E bikes upon their debut, although prices have since gone up to 15 cents a minute. Low-income riders qualify for the Boost plan, which costs $5 a month—about the cost for 40 minutes of ride time under the regular pricing structure—for 60 minutes of ride time every day (and 7 cents a minute after). As part of the launch, all users can get up to five free trips up to 30 minutes long every day through December 12.
The bright red, 70-pound, geared, pedal-assist bicycles have a front basket, a grip bell, integrated front and rear lights, and a solar panel that powers the rear interface. The aluminum frame has full-coverage fenders with a skirt guard, and rollerbrakes—a type of drum brake—are generally regarded as suitable for steep hills and unpredictable weather. The bikes coming to Seattle are Jump’s newest generation, with swappable batteries and phone holders between the handlebars.
Jump grew from Social Bicycles (Sobi), which currently runs semi-docked bike shares in 40 markets, including Portland (Biketown), Phoenix (Grid), Long Beach, and Pullman (Coug Bikes). Those who have used Sobi in the past are familiar with the basic unlocking process: Enter an account number and PIN on the interface. While the account and PIN system means bikes can be unlocked without using a smartphone, users can also reserve and unlock bikes using the Uber or Jump app.
With Jump bikes, there’s another option for unlocking: registering any radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip and tapping. This means anyone with an ORCA card can use that to unlock a bike.
Unlike Limebikes, Jump bikes have a system with built-in locks, which will eventually require locking to a rack or other infrastructure, although the lock-to-object requirement doesn’t start until March 15, 2019. A $25 fee is applied if a bike is locked improperly. This helps keep bikes out of the right-of-way and from falling over. It also allows for stopovers—e.g., if you ride a Jump bike to a grocery store, you can park it and come back instead of finding a whole new bike to haul your groceries back home. In a city ranking of bike-share permits, Jump scored a 7.3—the second-highest score given to part of any application—for parking and fleet management.
The initial service area goes north to 65th and south to McClellan, although Jump plans to expand as the fleet expands. Users will get a warning when riding a bike outside the service area, and ending a trip outside the service area incurs a $25 fee.
One tricky part of bike-share in Seattle is a King County law requiring all cyclists to wear a helmet—something difficult to navigate with a shared system. Through December 18, Jump will be handing out helmets at 1191 Second Avenue from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Tuesdays and Sundays.
Jump also participates with helmet manufacturers to provide discounts to customers: a $25 discount with Thousand and a 50 percent discount with Westridge. Boost-eligible customers get free helmets. (There will also be the standard disclosures, like in-app safety notices, warnings on the bikes.)
Another challenge: Jump is launching its bikes in November, which can mean chaotic, unpredictable weather in Seattle. Pronto, Seattle’s ill-fated docked system, kicked off in October 2014—and while being born into a rainy season was the least of Pronto’s problems, it didn’t exactly set the stage for success (or high ridership).
“We think people will discover riding the bikes is a great experience, no matter the time of year,” said Uber spokesperson Nathan Hambly when asked about the timing. “They’re equipped with fenders and automatic lights. When riding in inclement conditions, though, we do suggest people take that into account by riding slower, taking wider turns and braking earlier.”
This leaves just one more service left to launch: Lyft Bikes, a rebranding of prolific bike-share operator Motivate. Motivate has historically run docked bike-share programs—like Seattle’s ill-fated Pronto system and New York’s Citibike—but has been breaking into dockless, too. In Seattle, Lyft plans to introduce bikes at $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute, according to its permit application.
In response to a request for comment, a Lyft spokesperson stayed cagey on the details: “We’re excited about the possibility of bringing more mobility options to Seattleites to give them another affordable and convenient way to get around.”
Lyft’s pedal-assist bikes, according to its permit application, are also pedal-assist electric bikes that use a lock-to system, with a similar overall design and weight to Jump bikes. (Both are heavier than Lime’s e-bikes.) Lyft scored highest in the city’s permit evaluation.
While Lime had to re-apply for its permit—and, despite scoring highest in experience, scored lowest overall for its application—an SDOT spokesperson told us that its permit is not in jeopardy.
This article has been updated to correct the rental rate for Jump bikes, which was inconsistent in its original version, and to clarify that lock-to rules don’t apply until March.