back to article Uber saddles up for a new cycle of controversy

Uber has entered the bicycle-sharing business. The controversial company has revealed plans to work with bike-share company JUMP to let users of its app rent “electric-assist” two-wheelers for US$2 per 30 minutes. The bikes unlock when a code is typed into an onboard keypad and the treadlies are tracked by GPS to make them …

  1. msknight

    Time for a spot of fishing....

    O Bike fishing, that is....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xuwl6vKiTLU

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time for a spot of fishing....

      How about some stupidity spotting?

      Link

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Time for a spot of fishing....

      Yep: the fact that the bikes are dockless does not guarantee that the docks are bikeless...

  2. GlenP Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Dockless?

    So they're electric assist but don't need to be docked?

    How many will be abandoned when the charge runs out as they're too heavy to continue pedalling?

  3. Andrew Moore

    How about...

    Offering inducements to people to recover bikes from inconvenient places- Offer free ride time if someone is prepared to cycle one of the bikes back to a convenient location.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: How about...

      This is already the case in China where at least two, very large bike-sharing companies are based. The article is another example of our unwarranted fascination with Silicon Valley. See this article in The Economist for a bit more detal. There was also a good article in the Christmas issue on bikes in cities: providing free bikes isn't enough.

      I think the Chinese understand the potential market very well: a lot of rides may be just five or ten minutes so opportunity is more important than features or comfot. For example, I was recently in Manchester and having a bike would have let me get from the Northern Quarter to St Peter's Square fast enough to get an earlier tram. Unusually, it wasn't raining but it would still have been nice to be get home twenty minutes earlier.

      1. msknight

        Re: How about...

        The Chinese went bonkers about bikes, and the experiments have ended up with extremely mixed results.

        SerpentZA made a video about it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdsb2wwn-7g - "China's Bicycle sharing WENT INSANE!"

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        Re: "This is already the case in China where at least two, very large bike-sharing companies are based. The article is another example of our unwarranted fascination with Silicon Valley. See this article in The Economist for a bit more detal."

        I smiled at the comment (in The Economist) "Allen Zhu, an early investor in Ofo who is pushing for a merger, says making money is terrifically hard with so much competition." as it would seem the only viable competition to Ofo is Mobike. So having one competitor is too much competition...

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: How about...

          So having one competitor is too much competition...

          As any VC in Silicon Valley will tell you. However, when it comes to losing money (very different to making the stuff) Uber is a record breaker with the fastest burn rate of all time. Can see how expensive electric bikes will help add to this.

          Electric moped schemes might make more sense. At least I can envisage the prospect appealing to people where the bike wouldn't. It's also lower volume, higher value proposition for the operator.

    2. Joe Werner Silver badge

      Re: How about...

      I think one of the bike share companies in the German Rhein-Main region (I believe in Frankfurt) does something like this. They award points (to be used for renting a bike) for good behaviour (like reporting bikes that are left somewhere, or bringing those back to an official dock or bike rack if I recall correctly).

      The "dockless" can indeed be a problem. There are several cities in Germany that are now trying to regulate the bike share market a bit more, and probably will not allow a dockless (well, _yet another_ dockless) bike share system to be established there. I can understand them, the bikes do turn up in inconvenient places. I find the dockless system really convenient. Just taking one to quickly bike to the train station saving me a 25min walk is really useful. That's already as long as I would use these BSOs (bike shaped objects)

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        Germany that are now trying to regulate the bike share market a bit more, and probably will not allow a dockless

        Yep, probably at least 50 of the buggers cluttering up space in the streets near me. The offer needs to be much closer to demand than it currently is. As things stand they often block for weeks at a time the few bike stands that there are. There seems to be no concept that, in Northern Europe, in the winter demand is going to be low.

        Still, I might start using one for when I want to go to the train station. Quicker than the tram and I don't need to worry about it being trashed or stolen, admittedly not that much of a risk here but more than I'd like.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        "I find the dockless system really convenient. Just taking one to quickly bike to the train station saving me a 25min walk is really useful."

        It is, but a train station sounds like one of the prime locations to actually put a "bike dock".

    3. Bob Wheeler

      Re: How about...

      @ Andrew

      Sounds good at first glance, but it relies on someone wanting to make that journey from an inconvenient place.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        >Sounds good at first glance, but it relies on someone wanting to make that journey from an inconvenient place.

        The reason for the initially 50p and then £1 coin charge on shopping trolleys, the amount was set more to encourage kids to return the trolley's rather than the adults. Only problem, that arose in the mid/late 90's was that around big supermarkets gangs of foreigners would congregate and push the kids out by being coercively 'helpful' by taking trolleys back for shoppers and thus gaining themselves a reasonable income...

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: How about...

          Only problem, that arose in the mid/late 90's was that around big supermarkets gangs of foreigners would congregate

          Sounds very much like an urban myth to me. I've certainly never seen such "gangs" anywhere in Manchester. Supermarkets like to have the trolleys returned for two reasons: the customers like them and they're expensive to replace. Policies vacillate between deposit schemes and minimum wage trolley wardens.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: How about...

            >Sounds very much like an urban myth to me. I've certainly never seen such "gangs" anywhere in Manchester.

            Very real back then in Milton Keynes on the Thursday-Saturday. However, as the supermarkets needed the trolleys for customers on these busy days they began to collect them up themselves. Hence I've not seen organised groups loitering in the car parks for some years now.

            Really my point is that an incentive is needed to encourage third-parties to collect and return 'left' bikes to charging points/hubs, however, balance is needed to make it both effective but not so remunerative that people go looking for 'left' bikes to return.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: How about...

      They did that in Bristol, about a week after starting the scheme they decided that too many of their bikes were getting nicked or vandalised, so they restricted the area you could find them to just the posher bits of the city.

      In order to get all the bikes back they started offering half-price rides for bringing the bikes to the centre.

      They still get left everywhere of course. One apparently made it as far as Holland.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: How about...

        They did that in Bristol, about a week after starting the scheme they decided that too many of their bikes were getting nicked or vandalised

        The Chinese ones take this into consideration: no gears, hard tyres, etc. so that maintenance and replacement costs are minimal. Course, I'm not sure if they've reckoned with the scrotes that inhabit Britain's bigger cities and for whom vandalism is a way to escape the boredom.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    AB

    For Autonomous Bike. All they need is a homing app or something to guide them to the nearest charging station, you could even make them hailable by phone.

    They might need stabilisers though or a self righting mechanism.

    1. abedarts

      Re: AB

      I like the idea of Autonomous bikes. How about an autonomous pickup truck that redistributes them back to better start locations? The bikes can remain dumb and cheap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AB

        If the bike is autonomous then why doesnt it take itself back?

        I may not be taking this topic seriously.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: AB

          AC That was kind of the idea. You mat not be paying attention.

    2. MadonnaC

      Re: AB

      Training wheels?

  5. Matthew Brasier

    Locking to railings?

    How long before people start locking the bikes across peoples gates or to other peoples property, forcing the property owner to pay to unlock the bike and get access to their property?

    1. Stratman

      Re: Locking to railings?

      I have an angle grinder.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Locking to railings?

      If people don't do this already why would they do it with a bike? As the experience with free bikes shows, people will hoard them if possible; an example of the "tragedy of the commons". But if you're paying by the hour you're not going to do this very often.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Locking to railings?

        If people don't do this already why would they do it with a bike?

        Because people rarely walk around with a chain lock for the purpose of randomly locking someone's gate. Plus that that lock, however cheap it may be, will have cost a few quid.

        If, on the other hand, you get to annoy someone by locking the bike you need to park and lock anyway across their gate, then why not? Downside: being traceable via the bike rental database, at least if the rental site has moderately robust credential checking.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Locking to railings?

          I once had my fifty quid ladder stolen, the hundred-quid bolt cutters they'd used to liberate it was dumped in my garden.*

          *numbers from memory, but proportions about correct.

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Locking to railings?

            > I once had my fifty quid ladder stolen, the hundred-quid bolt cutters they'd used to liberate it was dumped in my garden.

            Maybe they needed transport, so they stole the bolt cutters from somewhere else and used them to steal the bike (hint: if you are going to become a thief, the first thing to steal is a cordless angle-grinder).

      2. strum

        Re: Locking to railings?

        >an example of the "tragedy of the commons

        You do realise that "The Tragedy of the Commons" is an ideological myth? The original essay was a piece of right-wing polemic, presented with no supporting evidence, which was then treated as fact by those so inclined.

  6. rmason

    Day 2

    There'll be an update to this story in a few days regarding the spate of hackings suffered by businesses in the sector, a lawsuit about an ex-employee taking someones system with them lock stock who is now "senior vice president of bike stuff" at uber, a mysterious murder at a competitor and the evidence deletion team will spring into action.

    It's the uber way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Day 2

      You missed one - bikes indecently assaulting the customers.

      Me coat...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inconvenient locations

    Around Hackney Hospital there are plenty of yellow OFO bikes, yet the local kids seem to prefer the ones they have hacked the locking mechanisms from and can ride for free

  8. Triumphantape

    Uber bikes onyl available in San Francisco

    Because that's the only place with people foolish enough to use them.

  9. G Mac
    Trollface

    Er, another cash burn effort?

    "Uber hasn't mentioned any upfront charge and, by bringing its huge user base to JUMP, might just be able to muscle other bike-share companies aside."

    Sounds like they have found another way to burn cash without any idea on how to make a profit. With a huge user base.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Er, another cash burn effort?

      Good point. They can;t even make a profit with their existing business, why would they want to expand into other markets? I can't even see the point in them doing driverless car stuff either. They'll never have the capital to build their production model. Everyone else is already doing their own research, some of whom actually have car assembly lines. I can see why they want driverless cars, but not why they are spending billions of other peoples money on it. At best, they may have some patents that others may choose to licence, but that is risky. There are so many others doing the same research, it's quite possible any Uber patents will be worked around.

    2. John Gamble

      Re: Er, another cash burn effort?

      They do seem to be betting on the convenience of being dockless (Ford GoBike is already in San Francisco), without considering that there are downsides and inconveniences to docklessness too.

      Considering that the docks represent an infrastructure investment, something that Uber has been reluctant to do in the past, I'm thinking that they're hoping the savings in one area will make up for the costs (bike losses) in the other.

      BTW, Citibike, Ford GoBike, Divvy (my area), and others are managed by Motivate, so it looks like Uber is up against a company that knows what it's doing, as opposed to a moribund taxi company.

  10. eldakka Silver badge

    Well, it's not like they don't already have a fleet of cars and drivers who heading back from a drop-off can't toss a bike or 2 into the boot and return to a better location for a small bonus....

  11. Nimby
    Joke

    Uber "saddles up" for a new cycle of controversy

    I was a little disappointed that Uber isn't renting horses yet. At least horses would be smart enough to wander back to the stable on their own. (Probably.)

  12. regmark

    Sharing or licensed dumping?

    Well, apparently, I am not alone. I immediately had my doubts when I started seeing dockless bikes lying around my neighborhood. How can there be a permit process for this? The bike can be moved from one jurisdiction to another. I wonder too how a permit or business contract can allow littering. How is leaving a bike on the sidewalk or on someone's private property any different than abandoning vehicles or littering?

    Like other things in these so-called "sharing economy" it is useful and convenient only for the people who wish to use it--at others' expense.

    It is, like Uber and Lyft etc., not really anything to do with sharing. Simply another way for dubious entrepreneurs to skirt licensing and overhead issues for increased profit. Who is "sharing" what? Sheesh

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