In a twist of un-environmentally friendly irony, Uber has decided to send thousands of Jump hire bikes straight to the dump because it says it’s too complicated to give them away. Yes, you should be angered by this.
According to The Verge, Uber confirmed in a statement that it would be recycling many of Jump’s older ebike and scooter models after transferring many of the newer models to Jump’s new owners, Lime. Instead, that doesn’t exactly seem to be what’s happening.
Images of Jump bikes turning up at scrappage yards in the US (Seattle and North Carolina) surfaced on Twitter earlier this week. They clearly show hundreds, if not thousands, of Jump’s trademark red bikes lined up ready for disposal.
EXCLUSIVE: New, close-up pictures of the Seattle JUMP 5.5 fleet show that every single bike has *already had their 36V Li-Ion battery removed,* so the manpower existed to do that prior to sending them to scrap. The extent of the waste is unfathomable. pic.twitter.com/zT3nRhYNAs
— Bike Share Museum (@bikesharemuseum) May 26, 2020
In a statement cited by Fast Company, an Uber spokesperson said that the company did explore donating the remaining bikes but said there were too many issues with “maintenance, liability, safety, and lack of consumer charging equipment.”
This is a weak excuse, though. When companies go into administration (not what happened here but bear with me), assets get seized and find their way to auction. They could often be sold “sight unseen,” which means buyers are willing to accept the risk that there may be a few duds in the mix.
The Bike Share Museum, a website dedicated to chronicling dead bike share schemes, reportedly spoke with numerous Jump employees after rumors that Uber wasn’t recycling them began to surface. The former employees said that somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 bikes are destined for scrap.
‼️RT to MAKE A CHANGE‼️
Hey @JUMPbyUber, why is this happening? TEN semi loads of good bikes🚲trashed⁉️ Let's collaborate on a non-profit to repaint & repurpose these. Give kids transportation to their first jobs👧👦@Casey want to help?🙏 pic.twitter.com/N8Uv82tr1B
— Cris Moffitt (@CrisMoffitt) May 22, 2020
All this comes just weeks after Uber got rid of its bike share scheme and handed it off to micromobility competitor Lime. At the start of May, Uber led a $170 million funding round which led to Lime also inheriting the Jump bike share scheme.
Uber has been on a campaign to staunch the losses coming as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and drop in users. With Uber itself struggling to find a way to be profitable and having cut thousands of jobs recently, it’s not surprising that it also got rid of loss-making Jump.
For a company that’s unable to make a profit, it’s confusing but also concerning, that it would decide to just throw so many bikes in the trash. Ebike sales are booming at the moment as individuals look for efficient self-isolated methods of transport, bikes are the perfect solution. Reports on Uber‘s bike scrapping all point to this, as to many on Twitter who are understandably enraged.
I don't know what I'd pay exactly to acquire one of the wonderful JUMP e-bikes being wastefully scrapped by Uber but it's a lot more than "$0"
— Michael Tae Sweeney (@mtsw) May 27, 2020
If Uber took the effort to repaint and sell these bikes for even just $100 a piece — which is an absolute bargain for a modern bike, even a well-used one — they could have generated millions of dollars in cash. Not complex equity, or VC funding rounds, cold, hard, cash. But what’s a few million to a company that’s used to posting billions in yearly losses?
As it happens, India-based Bounce, is doing just that. It’s selling off its bicycles for 800 Rs (about $10 – $12) as it has decided to pivot exclusively to electric sit-on scooters.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming though?
In China, there are massive bike share graveyards which contain thousands on thousands of discarded bikes that should be out in cities providing last-mile transport. Instead, the bikes sit there rotting and rusting because the government found that they contravened local transport regulations.
While the pressures of success might be different in the west, it’s no less depressing that thousands of such a wonderfully effective and clean form of transport are just going to waste.