bike share racks controversy

I attended the SACOG Transportation Committee meeting yesterday. Item 7 on the agenda, JUMP Bikeshare Contract Amendment, generated the most heat and most discussion of any item. The item would increase the amount allocated to the program by $48K. It was not the amount so much as the implications for bike racks that was controversial. The increase was to cover the difference between the cost of a shift from mostly corral racks, which had previously been specified, to JUMP “wave racks” (this is not the traditional meaning of wave rack) that were now being envisioned. Some of the exist Tower Bridge Bike Share Preview bike racks are of the corral type. The Santa Monica Breeze bike share racks are of the wave rack type. I can’t remember what the other SoBi systems have. Photos of each type are below, corral rack first and wave rack second.

Though the JUMP bike share system bikes will be owned by JUMP and operations are completely private, the rack capacity needed to make the system work are the responsibility of the three cities and the SACOG-led consortium. This is particularly so since Sacramento asked for a dock-optional system rather than the dockless system that JUMP is operating in San Francisco and Washington DC.

The City of Sacramento wants more of the wave racks to ensure that the bike share racks are not taken up by private bikes, making it impossible to park the JUMP bikes at the hubs. This is a reasonable concern in that Sacramento has far too few bike racks in most areas, and the bike share program will not install enough to overcome that deficit. However, many people on the committee questioned why an investment should be made in propriety racks when more racks are needed for everyone. The motion to recommend to the board was not passed, but a recommendation for the SACOG board to consider this issue was agreed to.

There was additional controversy about the JUMP bikes being assist-limited to 15 mph, though they are designed as legal class 1 electric bikes that can assist up to 20 mph. The other two cities apparently do not agree with this limitation.

There was also quite a bit of discussion of how alternative systems being implemented by Rancho Cordova and Folsom, and possibly other cities in the region, the dockless LimeBike, will affect or be affected by the JUMP systems and their bike racks. West Sacramento is permitting LimeBike Lime-E, an electric razor scooter type. I did not catch when that will go live.

Bike share open house

I attended the bike share open house hosted by the City of Sacramento last night. There were as many people representing partners and consultants as members of the public, and I did not see any low income or people of color. SACOG staff were present, as SACOG is the sponsoring agency for the bike share program, staff from Toole Design Group which is managing planning and selection of bike rack locations, and staff from JUMP, the selected bike share vendor.

Some things to report:

  • Rollout date is between the middle of May and the end of June.
  • There will be 900 bikes total, about 600 in the City of Sacramento and the remainder in West Sacramento and Davis.
  • The bikes will be limited to 15 mph, even though they are designed to operate at up to 20 mph. Under state law, Class 1 bikes can operate with pedal assist up to 20 mph, but a decision was made to limit them based on (probably misplaced) safety concerns.
  • The service area is considerably larger than the pilot Tower Bridge Bike Share, a very positive sign. You can see the boundary at http://wikimapping.net/wikimap/SACOG_Bikeshare.html, and add suggestions while you are there. Scroll to the left to see the Davis section. The open house had a large paper map for the same purpose.
  • There will be some sort of discount for low income people using the system, probably the JUMP Boost program, which is a $5 membership the first year, and $5/month thereafter, for 60 minutes of ride per day. In Sacramento, the eligibility might be based on SMUD status. At least initially, the only other option will be the standard $2 for the first 30 minutes and $2/hour after that, prorated. Other types of membership or charge may be implemented later.
  • Nearly the entire service area in Sacramento is moderate and high income, with just a small area in neighborhoods south of Broadway and around Power Inn being included. The city doesn’t have a plan yet for how to reach out to these potential users, and others not included in the boundary.
  • Bike racks will be provided in a quantity of at least two per bike in the system, so 1800 rack spaces. The use of these racks will be discouraged for other bicycles, in order to keep the spaces open for the bike share bikes. Bikes will be required to be parked at these hubs or stations at the termination of the ride, though they can be put on hold (with the meter running) at any other location. Leaving a bike away from a hub incurs a fee of $2, the same as the current SoBi system. Popular and busy locations will have multiple racks, while other have fewer, or one. Many or most of the locations, particularly outside the central city, do not have bike racks yet, so these will be added by JUMP before rollout. The user agreement requires that bikes be locked to a bike rack, not to other objects or left free-standing. It is not a dockless system.
  • JUMP has designed charging racks where a parked bike will charge. Larger locations will have some of these charging racks, though it is not clear if they will be installed at rollout.

There are two additional open houses scheduled, both in Davis. Friday, March 2, 11 to 1 at UC Davis bus terminal, and Saturday, March 3, 9:30 to 1 at the Davis Farmers Market. These will be less formal, and will offer the opportunity to ride the JUMP electric bike.

Bike share and bike racks

The announced JUMP bike share coming to Sacramento (Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis) is fuzzy on details. The announcement says “SACOG and the cities of Davis, Sacramento, and West Sacramento are currently permitting the bike share hub locations and are beginning public engagement.” The implication is that the system will be dock-optional, with hubs located in common areas and a small fee for not parking the bike at a hub, just like the existing SoBi Tower Bridge Bike Share Preview. However, the two existing JUMP systems, in Washington DC and San Francisco, are truly dockless, not dock-optional. There are no hubs, at least so far, though SF is considering some hubs to encourage people to leave the bikes at charging stations.

The JUMP bikes are of the same basic design as the SoBi bikes, they have a GPS unit and a locking U-bar that is meant to lock to bike racks or other fixed objects. Many other bike share systems such as LimeBike have a self-locking wheel lock (like European bikes), and cannot be locked to a rack. The Zagster system I used in Ashland is a hybrid: there is a cable for locking to a hub, which the bike must eventually be returned to, and another cable for locking to racks or other objects when stopping off as part of an errand trip.

When I used JUMP bikes in SF last weekend, one end of my trips had ample bike racks, but the other end did not. At the far northern edge of the geofenced system area, in a residential neighborhood, I searched four blocks without finding a bike rack, and finally used a post that was not a good location as it may have partially blocked access to a building and to parking spots. It was only there for about 20 minutes, so I felt OK, but it really brought home that a dockless system that requires bike rack use, as does the JUMP system, needs ample bike racks to work.

In the Sacramento central city, some areas have ample bike racks, but many areas, particularly neighborhoods to the east, and state building and office building areas, do not. So if the Sacramento system is to be dockless, and if it is to be successful, the city will have to install many more bike racks, in a hurry. West Sacramento and Davis probably have a similar need, but I’m less familiar with them.

My suggested criteria for bike racks is that one or more be visible when standing on a corner at any intersection, anywhere within the service area. I think electric bikes can be a great substitute for ride hailing (Lyft and the company that shall not be named), and a great complement to transit, but only if a person can find a bike close to their origin, and leave it close to their destination.

Jumping ahead (bike share update)

I rode a Jump e-bike in San Francisco yesterday. This was the first day that the program was open to the public, though there had been a low-income pilot going on for several months previously. The bright red (vermillion) bikes are pedal-assist. If you don’t pedal, they don’t go anywhere. But if you do, they really jump out. Though I haven’t ridden any really steep SF hills yet, the bike handled moderate hills with ease. I did ride most of the way across SF and back, and a chose a somewhat more hilly route than I normally would have.

Jump is operated by the company formerly known as Social Bicycles, so the GPS units and locking bar will be familiar to anyone that has used the Tower Bridge Preview bikes in Sacramento. The brakes are different, much stronger, as they should be for a bike that will go 25 mph. There are “gears,” but theses feel different with the pedal assist. The Jump system in SF is truly dockless, unlike the existing Sacramento system which is dock optional. There are no hubs or stations, the bikes can be locked at any bike rack within the system area. On the first day, the bikes were in clusters, with large areas uncovered, but they may become more dispersed over time. The coverage includes two of the lower income neighborhoods in SF, Bayview and Mission, so the user profile may be different than in Sacramento and for the existing Ford GoBike dock system in SF. There is a good article about Jump on SFgate: Jump rolls out San Francisco’s first stationless e-bike system.

The bikes must be recharged every few days, depending on use, and there are no charging stations at least so far, so rebalancing will probably be done as part of recharging. The company reported to me that they are considering hubs, but haven’t located any yet, pending data about use patterns. There seems to be a charging port on the right side of the bike below the handlebars, but it doesn’t look to me as though it was designed for docking/charging stations.

So, back to Sacramento. SACOG and partners have announced that the expanded system in the Sacramento region will use Jump e-bikes rather than the pedal bikes in the Tower Bridge pilot. It is not clear in the announcement whether the Sacramento system will be dockless or dock-optional. I think I prefer dock optional as more of the bikes will be in known locations, but with active rebalancing and recharging, dockless probably works.

The additional hubs (racks with geofences) that we were promised back in September are still not online yet, though most or all of the locations are installed. The most prominent lack is that there is still no hub at Sacramento Valley Station, even though that is the most common non-hub location where bikes get parked. With a May 15 promised opening of the different Jump system, I’m wondering if these other hubs will ever be online.

The 50 additional bikes arrived, though. They have black fenders and baskets. Unfortunately, the practical effect of the additional bikes has not been large. Before the new bikes, the Sacramento side had 20-25 bikes, and it now has 25-30 bikes, though it should have about 50. The bikes are often out of service, mostly due to gearing problems. If you have ridden the bikes, you’ve noticed that the gears slip on many of them. Sometimes this is just irritating, but sometimes it makes the bike unridable. Though this might be a maintenance issue, I suspect it is a design flaw.


The email I got when I joined Jump SF is below:

Hi Dan,

Thanks for joining JUMP SF!

Your account is now active!

Your account number is XXXXXX. Please store this number in a safe place as you will use it to access our e-bikes.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

JUMP is bike share–electrified. When riding the e-bike, start slowly to get familiar with its boost. You’ll feel motor assistance as you pedal. The harder you pedal the more boost you’ll feel. Be sure to try out the brakes to get a feel for stopping.

• JUMP brakes are powerful! Brake early – brake gradually.

• Ride slowly down steep hills.

• Use both brakes together at all times.

• Do not bike one-handed! Do not text while biking!

• Braking hard while riding one-handed is dangerous.

• If you are a heavier rider, ride cautiously down steep or long hills and keep your speed low. Weight limit: 210lbs.

STARTING YOUR RIDE

When you’re ready to take your first ride, enter your account number and PIN using the keypad on the back of the bike. Remove the gray U-bar and place it in the holster loops on the back left of the bike. Adjust the seat height and test your brakes.

PAYING FOR YOUR RIDE

JUMP bike rides cost $2 for the first 30 minutes and just $0.07/minute after that (plus applicable taxes). Your ride begins when you book a bike and ends when you lock a bike.

ENDING YOUR RIDE

At the end of your ride, lock the bike to a public bicycle rack within the designated system area. Bikes should always be visible from the street, and never parked on private property, in parking garages, or in parks. Improper bike locking fees may apply. If you’re ever unsure, check the system area map. Locking the bike outside of the SF system area will result in a $25 fee.

OUR BOOST

On a full charge our bikes can travel around 30 miles with pedal assist. While we do have teams regularly servicing our fleet, please understand that the bike you rent might not be at full charge. If you are riding a bike and the pedal assist runs out, please press the repair button on the bike’s keypad when ending your rental, and lock the bike to a bicycle rack. We will take care of it from there.

Please do not travel outside of the system area unless you are comfortable pedaling without the electric assist should the battery run out. Fees for retrieval of bikes due to low battery outside the system area may still apply.

RESERVING YOUR RIDE

You can walk up to a bike and check it out, or reserve one through the app. The clock starts ticking once the reservation is made. Bikes reserved in advance can be held for up to 10 minutes. Reservations will be canceled automatically if the bike is not unlocked within that time.

HOLD FEATURE

Need to make a short stop on your trip? The HOLD function guarantees that the e-bike is yours for up to 60 minutes. Press the “HOLD” button and lock the bike to a rack. Please note that reservation and hold time count toward your total minutes of riding time.

LINK CLIPPER CARD

You can link your Clipper card after unlocking the bike for the first time. Once unlocked, click Menu > Link Card > Start. Now hold the card directly up against the keypad buttons and wait for the screen to say “Success.” Next time you want to rent the bike, hold the card to the keypad to reserve.

For riding tips and safety information, please see our FAQ. We encourage all JUMP members to wear a helmet while riding. Don’t have one? Visit one of San Francisco’s many bike shops to pick one up, and if you’re a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition member, you can get 10-15% off!

You can learn more about our system and policies by reading our Rental Policy

Thank you again for joining. We think you will enjoy JUMP!

The JUMP SF Team

support@jumpbikes.com