Uber is scrapping tens of thousands of Jump bikes during a nationwide bike shortage

Photo: Bikeshare Museum

Uber is sending tens of thousands of its electric Jump bikes to the scrap yard, weeks after offloading the money-losing bike-share division on Lime. The news of the scrapped bikes has incensed bike enthusiasts on social media, one of whom decried the act as “unconscionable.”

Uber confirmed in a statement that it was “recycling” many of Jump’s older bikes and scooters after transferring “tens of thousands” of the newer models to Lime. But the scrap job comes at a time when many people are avoiding public transportation because of the coronavirus pandemic and looking for alternate forms of transportation. Bike sales (and especially electric bike sales) are booming. And the destruction of tens of thousands of viable bikes and scooters during a crisis is striking many on social media as incredibly wasteful.

“I can’t tell whether it’s misinformed, or whether it’s calculated and cynical,” a former Jump employee said. “But it’s just affecting everyone the wrong way.”

Photos of thousands of Jump bikes destined for the scrap heap first surfaced on the Bike Share Museum website, a digital repository for shared bikes that have since been retired. Founder Kurt Kaminer said that after he wrote a story about Lime possibly retiring the bright red bikes, numerous former Jump employees reached out to him with news of the scrapping effort. He said that between 20,000 to 30,000 bikes were being discarded.

“The Jump bike was really, really very special,” Kaminer, who’s based in Miami, told The Verge. “I know it’s heavy and such, but I don’t know, it just has this look and feel. It just spoke to me.”

There have been many iterations of the Jump bike, but the ones that are being scrapped are the “5.5” version, Kaminer said. There are also the more advanced 5.8 versions that have been given to Lime to develop, though Lime lacks the technical expertise to do so because Uber fired the tech team at Jump, according to Kaminer. The ex-Jump employee who spoke to The Verge confirmed this. In addition to the tech team, Uber also fired the robotics team at Jump that was working on semiautonomous scooters and other smart mobility functions.

Kaminer said he was “disappointed” that Uber chose to destroy the bikes rather than repurpose them, but he also understands that it was inevitable given the nature of the deal Uber made with Lime. “It’s a business,” he said.

In his article, Kaminer also said the destruction of so many bikes was “disgusting,” especially “in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic where bicycles have literally become an object of survival. Heavy as they are, these could be transportation for the many who have been brought to financial ruin during COVID-19.” The US is facing “a severe bike shortage” due to the disruption to the global supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times recently reported.

Uber acquired Jump for $200 million in 2018 with the goal of using the bike-share system to become a one-stop shop for urban mobility. At the time of the acquisition, Jump had 12,000 bikes in 40 cities and six countries. But Jump was also a money loser, even more so than Uber’s core ride-hailing business. Several top executives have left the company’s new mobility division in recent months, including head of new mobility Rachel Holt and Jump founder and former CEO Ryan Rzepecki.

In addition to offloading Jump on Lime, Uber led a $170 million investment round in the beleaguered Lime that dropped the scooter startup’s valuation by nearly 80 percent. Most of Jump’s 400-plus employees were laid off as a result of the deal. Jump’s permit to operate bike-sharing in San Francisco expired May 26th, though Lime recently announced it would be returning Jump’s bikes to Denver.

Kaminer wasn’t the only one to obtain evidence of the massive scrapping effort. Cris Moffitt, an entrepreneur and lifestyle designer, posted a video that he received from a friend who works in a scrap yard in North Carolina, in which thousands of Jump bikes and scooters can be seen strewn across the yard. In several clips, a large crane scoops up dozens of vehicles and deposits them in a dump truck.

“I just felt like it was a very unfortunate outcome and maybe I could get it some exposure on Twitter to pressure them to do something better,” Moffitt told The Verge.

Sanjay Dastoor, co-founder and CEO of scooter startup Skip, said that the Jump bikes “were the best shared ebikes ever designed,” and described the scrapping videos as “tough” to watch.

In a statement, Lime said that it took possession of “tens of thousands of e-bikes,” including some spare parts and tools, as part of its deal with Uber. “We have not recycled any of the JUMP e-bikes in our fleet and are committed to scaling and operating them during this critical time,” Lime spokesman Russell Murphy said. “Once the transaction officially closes, we plan to work with Uber to find sustainable ways to donate and re-use any remaining ebikes in their inventory.”

As to the scrapping effort, Lime deferred comment to Uber. A spokesperson for the ride-hailing company said it had explored donating the remaining, older-model bikes, “but given many significant issues—including maintenance, liability, safety concerns, and a lack of consumer-grade charging equipment — we decided the best approach was to responsibly recycle them.”

An Uber spokesperson said that it would be difficult to donate Jump’s bikes and scooters en masse to any organization because many of the parts and components are proprietary and require specialized technicians to maintain. But the ex-Jump employee said the company was being short-sighted.

“The trust has been damaged with a lot of the cities,” the ex-employee said. Many cities had designated Jump’s bike and scooter sharing services as essential modes of transportation during the COVID-19 lockdown, but now very few vehicles remain after Uber’s deal with Lime. This will damage the trust that cities put in these companies going forward, the employee said, adding, “It’s sad.”

Comments

Uber could easily sell these bikes at cost then later create charging stations to lock in more people.

Instead, LOL throw them in the trash.

You mean sell them with warranty? And who is going to build those stations and where are they going to stay? Who is making those contracts? Who is then taking responsibility for everything?
All this stuff costs money and time.
From a business point of view I do understand why Uber decided to trash them, it’s the easiest thing to do. They can even probably write off a part of the trashing.

I dont’t want to defend uber, but the situation is just not as simple as your guys are trying to make it look.

it’s really god damn simple actually, if you’re not a corporate apologist: uber has a bunch of perfectly good, essentially new bikes, full of valuable resources like batteries, and they’re just throwing them in the fucking garbage.

Quick clarification for everyone on this thread – Lime is the one making these decisions, the business is fully transitioned over to them. Of course Uber has to be the one to take the PR hit, but this is Lime’s call.

And it’s also true that this is a much more complicated decision than OP implies, these aren’t just bikes with mechanical pieces…there’s firmware involved that needs to be switched over to a new set of systems, and that work is not trivial.

Reminds me of GM scrapping the EV1’s instead of letting people buy them.

Unfortunately, large tech corporations tend to do this sort of thing. They don’t want to devalue their brand and would rather scrap the items than give them a second life.

It’s pretty absurd to claim that an electric bike has unfathomable proprietary tech that can’t be put out on the market. Please. The stupidity here is amazing.

Exactly. They’re 36v standard e-bike batteries that off the shelf chargers can handle. It’s not that complicated, they just know it takes less logistics and labor to pay a dump to take them and they still get a massive write off.

I mean, Uber’s entire business model is to parasitize the people doing the actual work. Diversifying into also being shitgoblins in the garbage production industry is hardly surprising.

Do you have any source for the "nationwide bike shortage"? I bought one recently and I had multiple options locally and online.

Probably a shortage in the nation of Brooklyn…

I’ve seen lines two blocks long outside the bike shop every single day I’ve gone grocery shopping for the past month, in Seattle.

I was looking for specific bikes for my size and use case at a semi affordable range last week and found about 30 options, all of which were sold out. I was pretty surprised but all of the companies confirmed they sold out early in the crisis and are having difficulties with their supply chain.

The bikes they’re scrapping are less than a year old, and we’re designed extremely modularly with 5 years of service and 50,000 miles in mind. Every part is high quality, even the tires are worth $40 each.

This behavior needs to be considered criminal. Wasting natural resources and discarding new or perfectly working products should not be allowed under law. This has been applied not so long ago to fashion, where luxury brands discarded their unsold inventory on a S/S F/W season basis.

guys, unfortunately companies scrimp in tough times.
that means decisions get made the are perverse, backward-looking, or whatever, but they’re done in the name of "survival".

This is trumpkin dreamland, a society marching backward. Reminds me of the centuries following the fall of Rome.

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