Uber has announced it will shift focus into the e-bike industry in the future, and two Canadian cities are already looking into implementation of the technology in a bike-sharing network.
The ride-hailing company offers bike-sharing services in a handful of American cities under a subsidiary called Jump, which has rolled out in places such as San Francisco and Washington. Now, Uber is planning to expand that service globally to provide more transportation options for its customers.
Unlike existing bike-sharing services that exist in cities such as Toronto and Montreal, Jump bikes have an electric motor that assists the rider. Uber Canada spokesman Adam Blinick said data show that people use e-bikes for longer distances than regular bikes, making them a viable alternative to cars or taxis, especially during rush hour.
“The main goal is to get people out of their cars,” Mr. Blinick said, adding that users are more likely to do that if they have a plethora of transportation options. “The residents of our cities will have better lives if we can help convince them to take other modes of transportation.”
He said Uber is focusing on providing multiple choices for users to get around on just one platform.
But unlike car ride-hailing, where Uber was the first in the game, bike-sharing has been available in many cities across the globe for years. Toronto has had a bike-share network since 2011 and Montreal has had one since 2009.
Despite that competition, Uber believes offering the bike-sharing service on its already-popular platform will give it an edge. “Consumers are looking for a place to go for a one-stop shop for all their transportation,” Mr. Blinick said.
The company did not say when it hopes to roll out Jump bikes in Canada.
Toronto is currently studying Jump’s e-bike sharing system, and Calgary has already been in talks with the company. Calgary could prove to be a particularly good opportunity for expansion, as the sprawling city doesn’t yet have a regular bike-sharing network. The city has also been steadily improving its bike-lane network in recent years and cycling is becoming more widespread.
Thomas Thivener, a transport project co-ordinator with the city, said 14 companies have expressed interest in setting up a bike-sharing operation in Calgary. The city plans to approve a handful of operators to start rolling out bikes in a month’s time.
"Getting regulations right, it’s definitely something that we’re looking at,” Mr. Thivener said, adding that proper maintenance, parking and distribution are some points of concern. “One way we’re looking to solve it at first is to put a cap on the number of bicycles that are put up.”
He said the initial cap on numbers is a lesson learned from Seattle, which was overwhelmed by bike-sharing bicycles clogging up streets and getting in the path of pedestrians.
In Toronto, officials are still studying the best way to implement a dockless bike-sharing system, and expect a report on the matter to be released in early 2019.
A Vancouver spokesperson said one endorsed bike-share company is operating in the city at the moment, but the city is paying attention to trends in the industry to keep up to date.