Letter to Ryan Rzepecki

To summarize: Don’t. Please, don’t.

Why? Why not be bought out by Uber? Because the objectives and culture are not a good fit.

JUMP (SoBi) has a model of disruption based on offering a better product, meeting the need of people, and making a profit in the good work. Every SoBi employee I’ve had interactions with had a passion for making the world a better place through bike share. When there were problems, each person I spoke with or emailed made sure to get it right. SoBi works with the cities it goes into, negotiating the terms but wanting to make sure it works for the company, the city, and the users.

Uber is the exact opposite. Their business model of disruption is to break every law they can get away with breaking, to cut every corner. Their intent is to drive every competitor out of business, as they must if they are ever to stop losing money. They treat employees like dirt (yes, the drivers are employees by definition of labor law, though at least in the US Uber is so lawyered up that the federal government and state governments have either not been able to compel Uber to follow the law, or don’t care to. In every city in which it operates, in the US and in Europe, Uber has violated law after law after law.

These two things do not match, and can never match.

One of the great hopes that I have for electric bike share is that it can displace many of the ride hailing trips that exist because it is time competitive with and cost positive over ride hailing in denser urban areas. I see uncontrolled ride hailing as the worst thing that could happen to our cities, and anything that lessens that damage is a great thing. That puts the ideal of bike share in direct conflict with the idea of ride hailing. The terms ‘shared mobility’ and ‘mobility as a service’ are all the rage these days, but I don’t see any mode that uses low occupancy energy guzzling cars (electric just shifts impacts from fossil fuel burning at the car to fossil fuel burning at the power plant, at least so far) as complementing any other mode. They are not a complement, they are a competition.

But the biggest conflict is on the streets. Bike riders, the users of SoBi and JUMP bikes, want more than anything to be safe. But they can’t be safe so long as poorly trained commercial drivers (Uber) terrorize bicyclists by driving over the speed limit, making sudden right and left turns, and looking at smart phones instead of at the road. Uber drivers block bike lanes more often than other ride hailing companies. I’m not sure why, but suspect it has to do with drivers adopting the attitudes of their company.

When I am bicycling in San Francisco (headed there for the weekend right now), I can hardly even use bike lanes on many streets because they are blocked so often by ride hailing. Do they look when pulling in? Do they look when pulling out? Seldom. As a vehicular bicyclist, I know how to deal with this, to just use the general purpose lane and avoid the bike lane, but I assure you, this is not the experience most bicyclists are looking for.

Bicyclists want safety. Uber does not.

I am really concerned that this is the beginning of the end of SoBi/JUMP, and that would make me very sad. Uber may kill off bike share once it realizes that the values and goals of bike share are opposed to their own. Another not unlikely possibility is that Uber will go under, under the weight of endless lawsuits that will sooner or later start to be successful. If you run a criminal enterprise, it will eventually catch up with you, whether you are Uber or the president.

To summarize: Don’t. Please don’t

@jumpbikes @ryrzny

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