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Scooters and e-bikes begin to replace car trips

Early data from Lime and Uber’s Jump show users are sometimes choosing dockless modes over cars

JUMP bikes sit parked on a street corner on April 12, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s incredible to think about how different the shared mobility landscape was just 12 months ago. Lime was just launching the first of its dockless fleets, starting with pedal bikes. Jump was still named Social Bicycles, and was about to wade into the e-bike world. Uber, for its part, didn’t seem the least bit interested in bikes and scooters.

One year later, Uber has purchased Jump and invested in Lime. And in the past week, both Uber and Lime have released some intriguing data that these companies claim show riders are using micromobility solutions to ditch cars and access transit.

In February, Uber’s app was reconfigured so Jump’s e-bikes could be booked directly as part of multimodal trips. This allows Uber to use its trip data to see whether or not its users are choosing e-bikes over ride-hailing, according to a Medium post by Uber policy analyst Santosh Rao. And at least for a small sample of users in San Francisco (right now there are only 250 bikes allowed in the city), the answer was yes—especially during daytime, when congestion was perceived to be higher on city streets.

Uber’s analysis looked at a group of people dubbed “early adopters”—users who averaged at least one trip a week on Uber before Jump’s introduction, and have tried Jump at least once. After the introduction of Jump, trip frequency among this group increased by 15 percent, but the number of Uber trips declined overall by 10 percent. During the workday specifically, Uber trips dropped by 15 percent, when Jump use increased. “The entire increase can be attributed to the use of e-bikes,” writes Rao.

Lime, which claims to have provided six million rides this month, is now offering pedal bikes, e-bikes, and electric scooters in 70 cities. Its one-year report uses a combination of anonymized data and rider surveys for its data, including city-by-city case studies. There’s also a breakdown of what it costs to own and operate a car in a major U.S. city—$28.18 per day—compared to two dockless rides plus two transit rides per day. Unsurprisingly, it’s far cheaper to use Lime.

The city data provides some interesting insights. In San Francisco, for example, where Lime gathered information from 7,000 users, 53 percent of riders said that they chose Lime’s scooter over a car for their last trip, and 39 percent of riders reported that they used Lime to get to or from public transportation—slightly higher than the national average of 27 percent.

The report also outlines some of Lime’s initiatives to bring service to low-income communities, with particular success in cities like St. Louis, where 20 percent of the vehicles were deployed in underserved neighborhoods. In Seattle, where Lime is part of a six-month city-managed pilot of three dockless systems, an incredible 30 percent of the city’s population has now tried dockless bike share, a percentage which is roughly the same across the city’s largest racial groups.

Keep in mind that for both of these cases, this is self-reported data, and far from the whole picture. Uber, in particular, has been reticent when it comes to sharing its data with cities, often brokering deals with universities or nonprofits as intermediaries.

But the findings are aligned with similar studies about e-bikes in particular, which have shown the promise of pedal-assist vehicles for replacing car trips. And with so many cities requiring data and metrics from dockless companies as part of their agreements to operate, this is an encouraging, if preliminary, sign that having e-bikes and scooters around could be reducing our reliance on cars.