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What Cities Need to Understand About Bikeshare Now

Public or private? Docked or dockless? E-bike or e-scooter? It’s complicated. But bikesharing is now big business, and cities need to understand how these emerging systems operate—and who operates them.
Shared bikes await their riders in Dallas.
Shared bikes await their riders in Dallas. Tony Gutierrez/AP

At the beginning of April, the ride-hailing giant Uber acquired the bikeshare company called Jump for $200 million. Jump vends and operates its neon-red electric bicycles in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and, soon, Sacramento; it’s the second skin of a firm called Social Bicycles, which had by 2017 seen its dockless smart-bike equipment deployed in over 40 cities.

The rebranding of Social Bicycles as Jump signified a few things. A company that had previously only sold bikeshare equipment was vertically integrating to both own and operate it, and it was committing to e-bikes as a differentiator in the increasingly crowded field of personal mobility devices. The purchase of Jump by Uber, which shakes out to about $13,000 per bike, revealed a few more things, like that short trips in cars are miserably unprofitable.