You might have noticed a new batch of bicycles hitched to San Francisco bike racks. These new candy-red rides are available to the public, part of yet another bikeshare program that started operating here last weekend. But unlike their competitors, these bikes have a big difference under the hood.
They’re called JUMP Bikes, and they’re high-powered electric bikes. They’re dockless and stationless — meaning you can leave them locked to regular bike racks, as opposed to the dedicated stations required for those blue Ford GoBikes. And 250 of them are now available to rent across town.
“An electric bike is a new mode of transportation. It has a motor,” JUMP Bikes CEO Ryan Rzepecki tells SF Weekly. “It’s not a bicycle, it’s not a scooter, it’s something in between.”
If you’ve never been on an electric bicycle before, they’re bionic and fun as hell to ride. The upside of bikeshares is having access to sweet bikes that you don’t have to store or maintain yourself (or buy outright; electric bikes can cost thousands). But the most exhilarating feature is the thrill of cruising at 15 to 20 miles per hour while barely pedaling.
“You’re able to easily get up the hills of San Francisco,” Rzepecki says. “You can go longer distances, you can get to work wearing business clothes and not arrive in a sweat.”
Brooklyn’s JUMP Bikes now operates in about 40 cities, but they’re especially well-suited to San Francisco because of what Rzepecki diplomatically describes as our “topography challenges.”
Like most rideshare systems, JUMP Bikes are accessed with a smartphone app (though they also accept Clipper cards, so you don’t necessarily need a smartphone or a credit card). The app shows where the nearest available bikes are located and lets you reserve one. Rides cost $2 for the first 30 minutes and 7 cents a minute after. When you’re done riding, you just attach the bike to a public bike rack with the provided U-lock.
SF Weekly tried renting a JUMP Bike, and found the system awfully convenient for errands and short trips. First-time users may struggle figuring out how to unlock the bike, because the instructions on the bike’s built-in LED displays switch screens in less than two seconds. But it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it by your second or third use.
The main drawback is availability. You can find plenty of JUMP Bikes in heavily trafficked areas like the Castro and Financial District, but residents of Visitacion Valley, Excelsior, and the Avenues won’t find any bikes for miles. On top of that, JUMP asks that you only lock the bikes on racks within a prescribed operating area — that covers less than half of the city.
“We still have a lot of ground to cover,” says JUMP Community Outreach Coordinator Meaghan Mitchell. “We have connected with most of the southeast sector of San Francisco, as well as the Mission and Tenderloin. But I intend to connect with every neighborhood, because I know what it feels like to be left behind.”
JUMP Bikes is trying to reach out to underserved neighborhoods; it has a low-income program that costs only $5 a year, and its local headquarters in Bayview-Hunters Point employs 16 local mechanics.
“I’m a second -eneration native San Franciscan from the Bayview District. Growing up in this community, I felt like we were always last to know about these types of equitable initiatives,” Mitchell tells SF Weekly. “This is just one of the ways we can bridge the transportation gap between Bayview and other districts.”
Basing their shop in the Bayview might help JUMP Bikes avoid the backlash, vandalism, and tire-slashings that afflicted the local launch of Ford GoBikes. And since JUMP Bikes can be locked at individual racks instead of group docking stations, they avoid the “wall of corporate marketing” effect that makes the Ford GoBikes kind of visually obnoxious.
Ford GoBikes are launching their electric bikes here in April, so JUMP Bikes won’t be the only electric bikeshare in town for long. But those electric capabilities and ability to operate without a docking station makes them the most useful company to JUMP on the bikeshare bandwagon.
Joe Kukura is an SF Weekly contributor.
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