Uber to launch e-bike service in Australia

U.S. tech company Uber will launch a dockless e-bike sharing service in Australia. News Corp papers picked up the story yesterday, with the Herald Sun suggesting that the rollout of Uber’s ‘Jump’ service would begin in Brisbane and Melbourne within weeks.   

Uber’s Australia and New Zealand spokesperson reportedly stated that “there are bikes on boats heading towards Australia” now.

Press coverage of the announcement has generally focused on the alleged problems with dockless e-bike services: bikes being stolen, obstructing footpaths and being abandoned in trees and waterways.  

Nine’s Today described past systems as being “plagued with issues”, highlighting that in Brisbane e-bike use had resulted in a number of serious injuries. They also note that Lime scooter customers had been frustrated by a series of software outages.

7 News Sydney commented simply that the dockless nature of the system renewed “concerns about unsightly streets”.

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson’s article in the Herald Sun highlighted how in 2018 oBikes “littered footpaths and were ditched in waterways, on roofs and even in trees.” The Singapore based oBike has since abandoned its Australian operations, as have competitors Ofo and Reddy Go after new laws were introduced in NSW to fine operators for bikes dumped in public places.  

As Gizmodo reported, Uber tried to downplay concerns by stating that Jump bikes would have GPS tracking and were “heavier” which would make them harder to steal. Uber also stated they were “expensive”, the implication being that Uber would have more of an incentive to keep bikes from being damaged or destroyed.  

Reactions on social media have been mixed so far. Some commenters on Facebook expressed concerns about increased congestion, bikes “trashing” or “littering” the streets, and problems with usability and lack of charging stations. Others made commitments to destroy or otherwise dispose of the bikes into waterways given the chance.  

Once the service is operating users will be able to access Uber Jump bikes through the existing Uber app. Because the bikes are GPS trackable, users will be able to use the app to locate and reserve the nearest bike to them. Reporters have noted that Uber Jump already operates in 30 countries, and that the Jump bikes have a top speed of 32km/h. Existing legislation in Australia restricts the use of e-bikes with a maximum speed above 25km/h.

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