Scooters filling bike racks

Rentable scooters, called shared rideables by the city, are thick as flies in Sacramento central city. They are being deployed to bike rack areas, completely filling the racks and leaving no space for bikes.

The photo below shows a rack with each space occupied by a scooter, no spaces available. It also illustrates a JUMP rack at which other companies are deploying their scooters. These JUMP racks, and the trapezoidal racks, were purchased for the original SoBi and later JUMP systems, and so ‘belong’ to the JUMP/Lime system.

Individuals are free to park their own bike or scooter, or any bike scooter they rent, at these racks, but the other companies are prohibited from deploying to them.

And there are simply too many scooters in some areas, particularly Old Sacramento and R Street. Lime, Bird, Spin, and Razor are deploying more scooters to high demand areas than can possibly be rented in a day. I assume that they are trying to drive each other out of business so they can dominate and raise prices, which is the business model for all app-based companies. In some ways, a fallout would be good, but in the meanwhile, the huge number of scooters is occupying public space, the sidewalks, and reducing livability and walkability.

Scooters on R Street

Scooters are still being parked in locations where they block sidewalk access, particularly for people with mobility devices or with vision limitations who cannot easily maneuver around the scooters. The prevalence of this has declined over time, but any is too much. I suspect that the companies are not holding users to account for illegal parking by fining them or cancelling accounts for repeated violations.

Scooters are often lying on the ground, making for even worse access issues. With the exception of Razor which was designed with a dual kickstand, all the scooter models in use in Sacramento area have flimsy, one-sided kickstands. People knock them over intentionally or accidentally, and they even fall over in high winds.

Solutions:

  • Prohibit companies from filling more than 50% of any bike rack with scooters.
  • Create more scooter parking areas, on wide sidewalks or within the street parking area, so that bike racks are not used as much for scooters.
  • Require scooters to have dual kickstands.
  • Require the companies to demonstrate an actual level of use of their scooters, or else reduce the number of scooters, or disperse deployment.

I’m hoping to see scooter charging stations show up, so that scooters in denser areas can be charged while parked. The motor vehicle use for picking up, charging, and redeploying undoes most of the environmental benefit of the scooters. Rebalancing will always be needed, but if many scooters can be charged in place, the number to be rebalanced should be low enough that they can be moved by bikes with trailers, not motor vehicles.

JUMP/Lime bikeshare update

The JUMP/Lime bikeshare bikes in Sacramento and West Sacramento say “Available on Lime and Uber” on the bikes. They are not available on Uber. After many months of the Uber app offering only ride-hail car services, they finally added back shared devices under the ‘2 Wheels’ option. The app offers to rent bikes, showing them on the map for selection, or allowing the user to scan the QR code on the bike. It goes to ‘starting ride’ and then… nothing. The bike is not unlocked, and the ride terminates after a few moments, without any message.

I have of course reported this issue to Lime. The support people insist that it works correctly, referring me to or reading from the support article “How does renting a scooter through Uber work?”. When I insist that this is incorrect, their response is, well, just use the Lime app. The reason I want to use the Uber app rather than the Lime app is that I have a large credit in Uber Cash, accumulated from rebalancing bikes in the past, that I want to use.

I’m not a scooter user, so I can’t report whether scooter rental works or not. I’m also not an Android user, so can only report on the iOS app.

The size of the bike fleet continues to be smaller than it was under JUMP. Friends who live outside the central city tell me there are rarely bikes available close to them. even in the central city it may be some distance to a bike. Under JUMP, the system did not work well until the number of bikes deployed reached a critical density of about 900 bikes, and then it worked great, being the most successful location in the country. Lime doesn’t seem interested in achieving this critical density.

I see a lot of dead bikes around, ‘dead’ meaning that the batteries are too low to rent, or the battery has completely run out. For a few of these bikes in my neighborhood, I’ve reported them to both Lime and to the city, but Lime was very slow to pick the bikes up. One dead bike was there for a week before it was picked up; others have been there for several days after being reported.

bike share before re-opening

JUMP unceremoniously pulled out of Sacramento (the Sacramento region program that included West Sacramento and Davis) in the very early days of the pandemic. The bike and scooters disappeared, except for those few that are still out there, abandoned and never picked up. Though the company claimed that the devices weren’t being used, that is not true. Despite people not commuting to work (the stay at home was not yet clearly defined), they were still getting used, at perhaps half the rate as before. I’ve suspected that Uber/JUMP was already planning a pull-out, and saw the pandemic as a convenient excuse. Sacramento had been the most successful JUMP system in the US, in terms of rides per bike per day. Some argue that means they would not have pulled out unless they had to. But I see exactly the opposite reason, that they pulled the bikes and scooters because they were so successfully competing with what Uber considers (and has now demonstrated) to be its core business, ride hailing.

Lime also had scooters here for a while, but they disappeared as well. Spin had a program based on the campus of Sacramento State, and I saw a few of the scooters off campus, but they were never widespread. I’ve heard rumors of other scooter companies, but never saw any of the scooters. There were also some short-lived or planned but not implemented bike and scooter share programs in other cities around the region.

JUMP is now out of the bike and scooter business altogether. They sold the business, and apparently some of the bikes, to Lime. There are stories on the Internet from locations all around the US about Uber recycling the batteries and scrapping the bikes, so this is apparently widespread, and either already has or will shortly erase most of the bike fleet from existence.

Lime had an electric bike share bike for a while, though never in Sacramento. I saw them but never rode one, as the places they were available had alternative vendors that I was already using. The reviews I read said they were much better than the pedal bikes Lime was famous/infamous for, but nowhere near as good as JUMP bikes.

Apparently Lime is restarting bike share in the Denver area, using the JUMP bike model, starting this Friday. I have not heard any rumors of a restart any place else.

So, what does this have to do with re-opening from the pandemic? I have not heard anything from any of the agencies involved in the bike share program about how bike share can be brought back. SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments), the original sponsor of the Tower Bridge pilot program (remember the white SoBi bikes?), SMAQMD (Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District), which provided some of the start-up funds, the City of Sacramento, the City of West Sacramento, and the City of Davis. Not a peep. There may be discussions going on, just not public, or there may not be.

This region, not just the area covered by the JUMP program, must have a bike share program. I am less certain that scooters must be part of the program, but I’m sure many feel they should. As people who were using transit but are not willing to right now, for an unknown but hopefully not too long period of time, search for alternatives, the choice to drive, and often to purchase a vehicle in order to drive, would be disastrous for the region. Our air quality has been wonderful for three months, but has already returned to the ‘unhealthy for sensitive individuals’ level even with only a fraction of the pre-pandemic traffic levels. If 80% of those who were using transit now drive, air quality will likely be in the ‘unhealthy’ for all category for much of the summer, and jump into the ‘very unhealthy’ category from time to time. We can’t let this happen. We must provide alternatives for people who cannot and will not drive, and that must include bike share. Of course the impact of motor vehicles, more than 40% of carbon emissions in the state, go far beyond current air quality to civilization-changing climate change, but my biggest concern right now is the short term impact on air quality.

Beyond air quality and climate, there are equity concerns about how we re-open. Yes, I know the JUMP system was not perfect. Even after expansion, it covered only part of the low income communities in Sacramento. JUMP had a low income uer discount program, but it was almost a state secret, and they never solved the issue for unbanked people.

We know that most transit users right now are essential workers and people who have no other way of getting to essential destinations. Those who can have been driving, but many can’t. They are not of a driving age (too old or too young), the have valid reasons they are unable to drive, and they simply do not want to be a part of the planet-destroying car obsession. What are we doing to do for these people? Are we going to put all our transportation eggs (funding and projects) into the cars-first basket, as we have done for too long, or are we going to change our futile ways and provide real alternatives? Are we going to commit low income people to a descending spiral of debt as they try to keep old cars running, or buy cars that barely run, just so they can get where they need to go?

The solution is bike share. Here is what I think needs to happen:

  • Equity concerns must be predominant in rolling out the new bike share system. Who really needs this option? How can we make sure it works for them? As one of my favorite people, Tamika Butler (and many others) has said, we don’t want to return to normal, because normal was never acceptable. High income state office workers are not the people the new system should be designed for, though certainly it should work for them too.
  • We must discard the idea that a privately owned and operated system can work to meet the transportation needs of the region. It could be a public system, or it could be a public/private system, but it cannot ever again be solely private.
  • Bike share is identified as a critical transportation service, and as a logical part of the transit system. This does not mean that it is operated by transit agencies, though it could be, but that transit agencies are a core partner in the program.
  • Major traffic attractors will not reopen until a bike share system is in place to handle the additional car traffic that might otherwise be generated. This most definitely includes shopping malls, and probably includes government offices in downtown Sacramento. Universities and colleges are not an issue, for now, as they will be online and not the trip generators they usually are.
  • Funding for bike share infrastructure (bikes and bike racks) will be diverted from road building projects. If the emergency powers of the state and county have any meaning at all, this is well within their power to do. When transportation agencies talk about the ‘color of money’, what they generally mean is that they don’t want to make the effort to justify different uses, and they are happy with the current mode share. Time to end that malfeasance.

JUMP charging hubs

Someone asked me recently about the locations of JUMP bike charging hubs in Sacramento. There are 18 on the map below, and one new on on 19th Street just north of Q Street, at the Q19 Apartments development. I captured this map from the JUMP bikes website, which took a little doing.

JUMP bike charging hubs in Sacramento

I recently took photos of all the hubs I could find, and they are part of the Sac bike-share album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157713653167982. I was able to locate only one of the three hubs shown for Sacramento City College. It may be: 1) I just couldn’t find the other two (they are much harder to see at this time since they don’t have any bright red bikes in them), or 2) they are not charging hubs but regular bike racks, or 3) they are located where construction is going on and are inaccessible or removed. All the rest of them have at least one photo in the album.

So far as I know, there are no charging hubs in Davis, nor in West Sacramento (which shown on the map as part of Sacramento).

When you actually rent a bike, the app shows the location of these hubs, but with no bikes to rent (the system is currently shut down, in case you had not heard), I can’t see what the live map shows. But other than the one new one, I think this map is accurate. Let me know if you know otherwise.

public or private bike share?

JUMP (Uber) pulled out of the Sacramento region (the cities of Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Davis) in order to meet their concerns about COVID-19. They announced this on March 18, though the bikes and scooters were mostly gone two days before that (except for a few dead ones they still haven’t picked up because without GPS they don’t know where the devices are).

Of course the bikes and scooters were getting used a great deal for recreation and socialization, but they were also being used by many people to get to and from work, and to go grocery shopping (small loads) and other errands. Some of these people do not have an alternative, they do not own a bike, or their bike is not functional. I don’t know what the level of participation was in the JUMP Boost program for low income individuals, but I suspect most of those people do not own cars, or cannot afford to keep them running, so JUMP bikes were a major transportation solution for these people. JUMP pulled the rug out from under these people. As a private company, they are entitled to do so. I will note that Spin scooters still seem to be available, and Spin has publicly made a commitment to continuing to offer scooters.

I am not one of the people depending on JUMP bikes. I have a bike, and using JUMP was just a matter of convenience for me, letting me make faster trips to the store and other errands, and during the warm/hot months, get there without a sweat. But there are others not so fortunate.

I consider bike share to be a part of the transit system for Sacramento. Both JUMP and SacRT also seem to see it this way – they cooperated to install JUMP charging hubs at a number of light rail stations in the city of Sacramento. But now we are without that first mile/last mile option (as it is called, though bike certainly allow more than a mile). Just as transit is funded by the public (as well as user fees), bike share, and probably scooter share, should be funded by the public (as well as user fees).

Going forward, the city needs to give serious thoughts to whether it is acceptable to have a private system as the only provider of mobility devices. Coronavirus is only one ‘natural’ disaster emergency. There will be others from other causes that demand we continue to have a functional transportation system. I am not suggesting that JUMP be eliminated in favor of a public system. JUMP (Uber) has had its issues, but when I think back to where we were before SoBi > JUMP, I can’t doubt it was a good thing. Certainly the fairly rapid expansion of the number of bikes and scooters, and the service area enlarged to much more (though not all) of the city of Sacramento, could not have happened without private investment.

Maybe the city can work out an agreement with JUMP that a certain number of bikes would remain available through any disaster. And through education, make it clear that this limited set of bikes if for Boost members and people in essential occupations.

I don’t know the best solution, and am happy to hear from others. What I do know is that if we come out the other side of the pandemic without having talked about this, we have failed to plan for the future and ensure an effective and equitable transportation system.

Dr. Destiny Thomas (@DrDesThePlanner) posted on Twitter today that if we are serious about bicycling as an alternative during these times, we need to address how to get bikes into the hands of those who don’t have them and can’t afford them. I agree!

JUMP update

Here is the story, as best I understand it. The JUMP app and the Uber app use the same login database. If you have or have ever had an Uber login, it is linked to a specific telephone number, and it assumes that you want those login credentials. There is no way to bypass this by using an email, it is phone number only. So, I had a JUMP account with a phone number and an email, and had at one time an Uber account with the same phone number and a different email. The JUMP app logged me into the Uber account, with which I of course had no credit and no membership.

Tech support walked me through over several days, with many back-and-forths, how to get back my credit and membership. It involved merging the two accounts. The user cannot accomplish all the steps, it requires tech support action at one or more points in the process.

So, if you have the same issue as I did, you will need to contact tech support to get it straightened out. Hopefully you will get one of the competent tech support people, which I did. I have been using the JUMP app for about a week now, and it correctly handles my membership and credits. Though I can’t see how much credit I have in the app, I can go to http://app.jumpbikes.com to see it.

When I look at the online portal, I notice that I am now a member of every single bike and scooter program that JUMP offers, both those I had joined before (San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles) and all the others.

On a related topic, the new JUMP app has some issues. It is very slow to zoom in and zoom out, and sometimes but less often slow to scroll. On the other hand, it seems to work better than the Uber app, even though they are both the same underlying technology. Last evening I was talking to a group of people frustrated by their inability to rent available bikes through the Uber app. They had been trying for quite a while, on a number of bikes. I suggested the try the JUMP app. They had it downloaded and were riding within a minute. I’ve come across a number of other people cussing at the Uber app. I think having cars in the mix messes things up, as the app is alway trying to move you to a car rather than bike or scooter. After trying the Uber app for a while, I deleted it.

When you are zoomed way out in the JUMP app, the Sacramento area is replaced by an icon, the ziggurat. For San Francisco, it is the Golden Gate Bridge, for Santa Cruz the lighthouse, for Los Angeles (Santa Monica) the ferris wheel from Santa Monica Pier, for San Diego a paraglider. The Tower Bridge would be a better icon for Sacramento, but that might lead to confusion with the Golden Gate Bridge.

JUMP warning

If you use JUMP bikes, do NOT upgrade the app. You will lose your membership and any credit you had. It is now a pay-as-you-go system. Uber has killed JUMP.

JUMP news

I learned from a JUMP field staff how to deal with U-bars that won’t insert. Just move the rear wheel a bit, and it will go in. The U-bar is hitting the spokes, so rotating the rear wheel removes the block. This happens particularly with the charging rack, since with the front wheel locked into the rack, the rear wheel doesn’t move as much.

JUMP just changed their return to hub policy. Users will get a 25 cent credit for returning a bike to any hub, on that trip, and a dollar credit for returning to any charging hub. The email (graphics below) doesn’t make it clear if this applies to any drop zone hub, or only the charging hubs, but my experience yesterday and today is that it is for any drop zone hub (the green icon with lightning bolt). The credit I got for drop zone hubs was $1.25, both credits together. This could change. It could also vary depending on your membership type. I hope that this will encourage people to return bikes to hubs at the end of their trip. I often see bikes parked less than a half block from hub. Will 25 cents make a difference? Probably not, but it is a start. How about 50 cents, JUMP? In some other cities, there is a charge of $2 for leaving a bike outside a hub, in addition to the trip charge. I hope that we don’t need to go there in Sacramento.

I now have a student membership in JUMP Sac since I’m a student at American River College. At $30 a year, it is a great deal for anyone who uses JUMP regularly. You get 60 free minutes a day. Almost makes it worth being a student! An oddity is that taking a bike to a drop zone hub for credit counts against my daily minutes, until the daily minutes are used up, then the ride time is no longer charged. So it seems I get partial credit while I still have minutes, and full credit after I don’t have minutes remaining. I’m not sure I understand this structure, and I’m not sure it is consistent.

I, and everyone else, had hoped that bike parking would improve over time as people got used to the system, but parking seems to be getting worse rather than better. I’m not talking about parking in the buffer zone or to the side on wide sidewalks, which while technically illegal is practical where there are no bike racks, but parking in the sidewalk. This morning there were six bikes parked on and blocking the sidewalk on S Street. I don’t know why users would do this, as there was a sidewalk buffer immediately adjacent with plenty of space for bike parking (though nothing to lock to). Get it together people! There is no excuse for this kind of parking. It is both rude and hazardous for people walking, particularly if they have mobility issues and can’t go around. I moved the bikes. Yes, they are heavy.

I have been finding a lot of dead GPS bikes, with no display and no lights on the GPS unit. I’m not sure if this is common, or I’m just adept at finding them. If you find a bike like this, that does not wake up when buttons are pressed, please report it to support@jumpbikes.com. Sometimes they have lost track of these bikes, and sometimes they know the last location before the unit went dead, but it doesn’t hurt to report it.

JUMP at SacATC

JUMP Bikes representative Alex Hagelin made a presentation at the September 19 meeting of the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC). Below are my notes from the presentation, and you can view it online at http://sacramento.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=4254.

JUMP Bike Share Update at SacATC 2018-09-26, agenda item 5

Alex Hagelin, Sacramento General Manger

  • Launched in May
  • 900 bikes by October
  • Metrics
    • 80% month to month growth
    • 350,000 miles
    • > 300,00 Lbs CO2 saved
    • 13,000,000 calories burned
    • Parking complaints about 0.3% of trips
    • (no stats on trips per bike)
  • Parking
    • > 600 bike racks within city, 300 racks pending review for placement
    • Gathered community input on locations 11,000 votes
  • Charging
    • 10 plus with SacRT light rail stations, additional locations at private businesses (due to electrical drop requirements)
  • Bike parking behavior change
    • 2-3 times more use of JUMP as compared to GoBike in San Francisco
    • Considering photo requirement that users would have to take a photo of their parking job
    • Education, carrots, sticks, response time
  • Community
    • Drafting equity plan, available soon
    • Boost membership, $5 per year for low income; Pay Near Me to allow cash addition to account
    • Participating in local events
  • Looking forward
    • Community outreach
    • Responsible and responsive vendor
    • Growth: new bikes, expanded service area
  • Questions/answers
    • Bike clubs complaining about rider skills
    • JUMP seeing people on bikes who are not regular riders
    • City talking to JUMP about what education will look like
    • Raised issues about where bikes are located, neighborhood equity
    • Asked about service area, north to American River, and south a ways, will need new hubs in these areas
    • Charging stations SacState, city college, SacRT, private property

http://sacramento.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=4254

JUMP update

The credit for returning a low battery $ bike to a drop zone is now $1.00, up from 50 cents.

I notice a lot of scrapes on the bikes. It seems that there are a lot of minor crashes occurring. I have not heard of any major injuries, but there must be a lot of minor injuries going on, because there are minor injuries to the bikes. In addition to the scrapes on the basket, the brake lever, particular the right, is often turned under, which requires some impact to accomplish. The front fenders seem to get bent out of alignment as well.

I have heard directly from several people about crashes on the tracks, particularly along K Street. I initially discounted the rumors, as I assumed that it would be hard for these wide-tired bikes to have problems with tracks, but apparently I was wrong. I’m not sure if these are occurring at the rail crossover (between 9th and 10th), or all along K. K probably sees more bike share bikes than any other street with rails in Sacramento. There are many inexperienced bike riders on these bikes, who may not know that tracks should be crossed at a high angle, 90 degrees perpendicular if possible, but at least 45 degrees. Anything less risks capturing the wheel and taking you someplace you didn’t intend to go.

There seem to be new bikes out (nice and shiny, without scrapes), with 6000 series numbers, so I think that the overall total is now above 600, but I don’t have any specific numbers.

I’m seeing more and more bikes outside the system boundary in Sacramento, some miles outside. I’m not sure if JUMP has given up on charging the out-of-bounds fee, or these are people with money to pay it, but it kind of irritates me, as these bikes are often unavailable until picked up by JUMP field staff, meaning they are used much less than those that stay within the boundaries. I know that an expansion of the boundaries is planned, but I’d heard it will not occur until the system reaches its total of 900 bikes.

The transformation of the central city continues, at least during evenings. There are many fewer private vehicles, fewer ride hailing vehicles, and a continuous stream of JUMP bikes. When I park a bike, it is often gone within five minutes. These bikes are getting used!