Uber is deploying 1,000 electric bikes and scooters in Mesa and Scottsdale via its Jump subsidiary, adding to the variety of rental transportation options throughout the metro area.
The company said the bikes and scooters would be available beginning Tuesday in the two cities. The scooters can be rented through the Uber app on smartphones while the bikes can be accessed with either the Uber or Jump app.
The bikes use a pedal-assist feature that speeds up in response to pedaling and slows down when the rider stops pedaling, allowing riders to travel as fast as 20 miles per hour with minimum effort.
The scooters, like Bird, Lime and Razor models now ubiquitous in some parts of the Valley, use a throttle accelerator. Jump says they can move as fast as 15 miles per hour.
“With great weather, popular local events, and bike-friendly roads, Scottsdale and Mesa are perfect cities for e-bikes and scooters,” said Andrew Waters, who is overseeing the Jump deployment in Arizona.
The bikes and scooters will be free to unlock and ride for 15 minutes a day until Feb. 4. After that, they will be free to unlock and then cost 15 cents a minute to ride.
Other rentals in the area charge $1 to unlock.
Jump offers a hold feature so riders can stop for a moment without having to pay the unlocking fee twice.
The company also offers a Boost plan to people on public assistance that will allow them an hour of use a day for a year for just $5. To qualify, riders must show their eligibility in either the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Short Term Crisis Services, the Arizona Cash Assistance Program, Arizona Nutrition Assistance and/or Section 8 housing.
Uber will offer free helmets until Feb. 4 both in Mesa and Scottsdale and at its facility in Tempe at 1414 W. Broadway Road, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
Uber imported 8,000 of the bikes in December ahead of new import tariffs, but did not disclose then where the bikes would be deployed. It has announced an Atlanta rollout, along with Mesa and Scottsdale.
Some distinctive features
The Jump bikes have a few features that set them apart from others in the market. For one, they have a retractable cable lock that must be used before users finish their trip, which could minimize bikes left in dangerous or inconvenient locations such as the middle of the sidewalk or street.
They also have detachable batteries so the bikes themselves don’t need to be brought in to be recharged.
Another difference in Uber’s launch versus Lime and Bird is that the company reached out to the cities beforehand, rather than dropping the scooters off unannounced.
“With Bird and Lime, they just showed up all over the place,” Mesa spokesman Steven Wright said.
He said Mesa residents’ reactions to the scooters have been mixed.
“I know there are folks on both sides of the discussion,” he said.
Some people appreciate being able to take light rail to downtown Mesa and use the scooters to get around; other residents are concerned they clutter sidewalks and parking spaces, he said.
Mesa has not proposed any regulations for rental scooters and bikes, but the idea is being considered.
“We are looking into how we regulate these things,” Wright said.
Scottsdale’s introduction to dockless scooters last year was thorny. The city issued a cease-and-desist letter to Bird after its scooters were left around the city for rent.
The city and Bird later worked out an agreement stipulating the scooters are not allowed on sidewalks or in city parking garages.
Scottsdale then created rules for the shared vehicles, but the city chose not to charge licensing fees as some other cities have done.
“Scottsdale has an ordinance which provides rules for operating and parking bicycles, electric bicycles and stand-up electric scooters,” spokeswoman Holly Walter said. “Any company can operate in Scottsdale if they are willing to follow the rules. Users should operate the devices safely and lawfully.”
Uber is making its scooters and bikes available in Mesa from the Loop 101 to South Lindsay Road and from the U.S. 60 to East McKellips Road.
In Scottsdale, the bikes and scooters will be placed from 56th Street to Pima Road and from Indian Bend Road to McKellips Road.
Launch follows new Tempe rules
The launch in Mesa and Scottsdale follows a move last week by the Tempe City Council to charge licensing fees and place a host of restrictions on scooter and bike companies.
Tempe is considering safety regulations, too, considering the Tempe Fire Department has responded to more than 100 accidents since May.
Uber is analyzing the new rules before bringing its business to Tempe. In some cities, the Uber app allows people to rent Lime scooters, but not in Tempe.
On the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, the school banned electric scooters and has started impounding them when they’re left on campus. As of last month, ASU had impounded nearly 900 scooters and collected nearly $80,000 in impound fees.