Uber expands electric-bicycle rentals with European debut

(Uber Website)
(Uber Website)

Uber announced it would roll out its on-demand electric-bicycle service to Europe, as it seeks to expand its international offerings to include more environmentally-friendly forms of transportation.

Uber said on Wednesday it aims to bring its Jump bike rental service to Berlin before the end of this summer, with other European cities to follow soon after.

"When you get onto these bikes and you pedal, you feel like Superman,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said at the Noah tech conference in Berlin as he was pushing a red Jump ebike on stage.

“This is potentially a replacement for Uber trips so that we can be bigger than just cars, we can be about mobility within a city, and we can help resolve the traffic issue every city is facing.”

The expansion comes after Uber bought Jump in April, the company’s first acquisition since Khosrowshahi joined the ride-sharing company as CEO last year. It fits into Uber’s wider strategy to branch out beyond offering traditional taxi-style rides, to include services such as food delivery to city travel in flying cars.

Uber will be entering a crowded bike-rental market. The German capital has a significant presence already from companies such as OBike, based in Singapore, China’s Mobike, and LimeBike, which also offers electric rides.

These companies have moved aggressively into cities across Europe and the US with app-based services that let customers find the nearest bike and leave it wherever they want after use.

Uber will also bring its UberGreen service of electric car rides to the German capital this year as it wants to promote the electrification of transport in cities across Europe.

The new products for Germany are an example of the "new Uber," the CEO said, which is trying to enter markets “through partnerships and dialog."

Germany has been a difficult market for Uber’s primary business units. It had to pull back its mainstay product of offering cheaper-than-taxi rides with private drivers amid legal challenges. Khosrowshahi, who has been on a charm offensive since he became CEO, pledged at a tech conference in Munich in January to expand more carefully in the country.

It didn’t stop local taxi drivers demonstrating outside, whistling in protest over the competition from the US giant.

The company already offers Jump bike rides in Washington DC, San Francisco and other California cities, where customers can take 30-minute trips for $2 a ride on an electrically-assisted bicycle.

Uber said it would provide more details on pricing for bike rides in Europe in the near future.

Similar fleets of bikes intended for short-term rental can be seen in cities worldwide, and sharing schemes of non-electric models have been in operation for decades.

In London, about 11 500 public bicycles are available for an initial fee of £2; some cities in China count their available two-wheelers in the hundreds of thousands, to the point that the popularity led to a government crackdown.

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