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!