A note: We are not associated with the Jump Bikes company. If you need to contact the company, they can be reached at (833) 300-6106.
You may not know what a Jump Bike is, but you’ve almost certainly seen one in Downtown Sacramento recently. Bright red, with a chunky design that looks Ikea-inspired, Jump Bikes have been popping up all over Sacramento—locked to signposts and bike racks, and being ridden down city streets.
So, what’s the story with Jump Bikes?
Founded in 2010 as Social Bicycles, Jump Bikes is a ‘hubless’ bike sharing platform that aims to make bicycles accessible in cities, college towns, company campuses, and residential areas. As of 2018, Jump Bikes has rolled out its bike sharing system (under the Social Bicycles brand) in 40 cities spread across half a dozen countries.
But in 2017, the company chose to make the leap from traditional bicycles to electric bikes, and rebranded under the name Jump Bikes. The first Jump Bikes e-bike program was rolled out in Washington D.C., with San Francisco and Santa Cruz following soon after.
Sacramento became the fourth Jump Bikes city in May 2018. More recent additions include Austin and Chicago, with Providence, Rhode Island coming soon.
Bike sharing isn’t new to Sacramento. Back in June 2017, we wrote about the Tower Bridge Bike Share program, a pilot program in which 50 bikes were released onto the streets of West Sac and Sacramento. However, the bikes were heavy and bulky, and there weren’t enough to catch the interest of locals.
On the other hand, Jump Bikes seem to be catching on in Sacramento. The sheer number of them hasn’t hurt—in addition to the 190 bikes currently in Downtown and Midtown, 50 have been introduced in West Sacramento, and another 60 in Davis, for a total of 300 bikes. By the end of this summer, that figure is expected to triple to 900.
Jump Bikes are electric bikes. You pedal them like any other bicycle, but your speed is boosted by a 250-watt electric motor up to maximum of 15 mph (a speed limit imposed by the city of Sacramento). In addition, each 70-pound neon red bike is equipped with an adjustable seat, a wheel skirt guard to protect your clothing, front and rear lights, integrated bike lock, and a bell.
Jump Bikes aren’t kept at a rental shop or other centralized location. They can be found just about anywhere, with riders helping to spread them across the Jump Bike service area.
But to use a Jump Bike, first you have to create an account and set up a payment option using the app, which can be downloaded from the iTunes and Google Play stores. You’ll be assigned a user ID number, with a PIN of your choice. Then, there are two payment structures to select from. The first option is pay-as-you-go, which costs $1 for a ride of up to 15 minutes, with a charge of 7 cents for each additional minute, which comes out to $4 per hour.
For those who plan on being frequent riders, you can opt into a “$30/30 Days” plan, which is advertised as being available for a limited time. Under the plan, you can ride for up to an hour per day, with the same charge of 7 cents per minute for any overtime.
To find a bike, just use the app’s map to find an available bike nearby, and start walking. Once you find it, just punch in your user ID and PIN, pull the U-lock out, and you’re ready to go. You can also reserve a bike if you don’t want someone to snatch it before you get there, but you’ll be charged from the moment you start your reservation, rather than when your ride begins
When you reach your destination, lock the bike in any bike rack or Jump Bikes hub, and you’ll be charged for your usage—but be careful where you park your bike! If you lock it outside the Jump Bikes service area, you’ll be assessed a $25 fee. But as long as you check the app, you’ll be fine, as the boundaries of the service area are clearly shown. In addition, the Jump Bikes website provides a complete map of the Sacramento/Davis service area.
The boundaries of the Sacramento service area are roughly:
The Davis service area encompasses most of the region within (and in some cases immediately outside of):
But enough about where to find and ride the bikes. What’s the experience like? Well, let’s start with the app.
If, like me, you want to get a feel for things before making a financial commitment, just download the app and click on the “Show Me Bikes” option on the title screen. You’ll be taken to a map screen, which shows your location, and nearby Jump Bikes and bike racks.
In playing around with the app’s map, I found myself yearning for Google Maps. It’s easy to zoom in and out of the map, but you can’t rotate it, which is a serious shortcoming. The maps for the Uber and Lyft apps are only used to indicate your pickup point and to see how far away your ride is. But with bike sharing, you have to be able to figure out where you’re going. Nobody is coming to pick you up—you’re going on a treasure hunt to find the nearest bike.
This isn’t the only shortcoming. Tapping on a bike or bike rack will pop up a suggested walking route on the map, but it lacks detail. It’s just a thin line overlaying the map. You’ll have to shift the map and zoom in and out to track your progress, and will have to turn your phone sideways or upside down to match the layout of the streets around you.
Jump Bike was purchased by Uber in April 2018 for $200 million. Given the resources this brings to Jump Bikes, the fact that the app’s map is so inflexible is more frustrating than it would be otherwise.
So, the app’s not super great. But what’s it like to ride a Jump Bike? Over a period of three days, I endeavored to see for myself.
I started out by downloading the app for onto my Google Pixel smartphone. To create an account, I had to supply my name, mobile number, email address, and then pick a password. I was assigned an ID number, and after picking a PIN, I had to add a credit card. I was then given the choice of selecting the $30 per month pre-paid option, or pay-as-you-go. I selected the latter, and to complete the process, I had to add a balance of $1 ($1.08 after tax) to my account. When I signed up, I used a promo code, F1RSTJUMP, to tack on a free $2 credit.
Then, it was time to find a bike. On a hot Thursday afternoon, I decided to grab a Jump Bike and ride home. Having checked the map a few times over the previous few days, I’d found that the Post Modern Marketing office is in something of a dead zone, with few Jump Bikes to be found in the surrounding area.
But as luck would have it, the map showed a bike a block-and-a-half away on K Street, so I set out. And… I couldn’t find it. J and K streets are littered with parked bikes and cars, and other obstacles, so trying to find a bike, even with the map, isn’t easy. After a minute or two I gave up and switched my sights to another bike a block or so away.
I found this bike, but when I pressed a button to activate the bike’s display, I was greeted with a message saying, “Bike in repair, sorry for the inconvenience.” As I later learned, when a user experiences some sort of malfunction, such as a failing motor, they can park the bike and select the repair option on the interface, which places the bike into repair mode and makes it unrentable. Such bikes are apparently not removed from the map, which is annoying.
At this point, I decided to give up. Thankfully, the next day proved to be more fruitful.
The next day, on an even hotter Friday, I made another attempt. Thankfully, there were several Jump Bikes in the vicinity, and I ended up hunched over the display of a Jump Bike parked in a hub on the corner of 24th and K.
I started by pressing a button to activate the display, which asked me to enter my account number. I found that a couple of the buttons were a little stiff and unresponsive, so it took a bit of patience to enter it successfully. A few more moments of frustration and my PIN was entered as well. And then… I waited. The verification process was slooooooooow. It took about 30 seconds for the transaction to be verified, upon which I was prompted to remove the lock.
The lock is a simple U-shaped metal that fits into the metal housing which encases the user interface and wraps around the back wheel. Once you remove the U-lock, you reinsert it into a holster on the other side of the housing. After I’d unlocked the bike, I found that the bike was heavier than expected. Jump Bikes definitely weigh every one of the 70 pounds indicated in the specs.
It took a bit of maneuvering, but once I’d adjusted the seat, climbed on, and pushed off, it was a breeze. The electric motor makes a very noticeable difference, producing a fun and low-effort ride that compares very favorably versus riding an unpowered bicycle.
On the right-hand grip, there was a 3-speed twist shifter, labeled with icons to indicate which way to shift for faster speeds, versus lower gears for hill-climbing power. I found myself wishing for one or two higher gears, as pedaling was very easy, and the lack of resistance gave me that disconcerting feeling of being in too low of a gear. (More on this later.)
One of the pleasant discoveries I made was how easy it was to quickly kick off from a stop at Downtown Sacramento’s many busy intersections. I never found myself nervously eyeing oncoming traffic while struggling to get up to speed. The motor kicks in very quickly, and within a couple pedals, I was off and running despite the bike’s heavy frame.
When I’d arrived home, I rolled the bike up onto a sidewalk, and (a bit guiltily) locked it to a sign post. With the U-lock secured, I squinted against the bright light at the (somewhat grimy) screen to see the display showing:
Duration: 07:07 Distance: 0.76 [miles] Total cost: $1.08
See your ride in the mobile app!
This was followed by three options: (1) Repair, (2) Hold, (3) Done. As mentioned previously, the “Repair” option is used to indicate that the bike is malfunctioning. “Hold” can be used to reserve the bike if you plan to return after a short period of time, such as after a brief shopping trip. Jump Bikes recommends using the hold function to temporarily park a bike outside the system area without being charged the $25 out-of-system fee.
But I selected “Done” to indicate that I was done with the bike. The display continued to show my stats for a few seconds, and then flashed back to the login screen.
While I found the process of finding a bike and logging into it to be a little annoying, I really enjoyed the experience. It was about 100 degrees when I was riding the bike, but the ease of peddling, in addition to the significant breeze generated by the cruising speed, made for a comfortable ride.
A few days later, at the end of another day at the office, I wanted to take a longer ride to see if my first impression held up. In trying to find a bike, the increasing popularity of Jump Bikes was readily evident, as the bike closest to our work was reserved, and the next bike I found was gone before I got to it. As I was walking up to where the second bike should have been, the app refreshed and both bikes disappeared off the map. This lag, which I observed more than once, was a bit of an annoyance.
Then, I walked a couple more blocks to a hub with four bikes. Two of the bikes were reserved, but I managed to grab a bike with a 95% charge. As I climbed on, I was startled to discover that it was an 8-speed with a visibly different grip that lacked the icons printed on the shifter of the 3-speed variant I’d ridden previously. I was curious to see if it made a difference, so I grabbed it. Thankfully, this bike’s number pad was in much better shape, and was much faster to verify my rental.
The 8-speed was a big improvement, as the higher gears made it easier to maintain the speed necessary to navigate Sacramento’s busy 5 o’clock traffic. I’m not much of an urban bicyclist, so I was surprised to discover that I felt comfortable merging with traffic where necessary to make a turn or pass through an intersection with a stoplight. With the higher gears, the Jump Bike’s quick acceleration was also more evident.
I quickly made it home and locked the bike out front. Within an hour, the bike was gone, off on its next adventure.
Based on my experiences, I think that even on a hot day, it would be very realistic to take a lengthy ride across Downtown, or even to Old Sacramento, without much of a problem. They’re also a great choice for those heading to the Golden 1 Center, with its heavy vehicle traffic.
While I plan on putting this assertion to the test in the near future, there have already been some riders who have put their endurance, and the endurance of Jump Bikes, to the test…
While I was going through the process of researching Jump Bikes, I noticed on the location tracker that there were a few bikes which had been parked outside the designated Jump Bike zone. Apparently the $25 penalty wasn’t enough to encourage riders to keep the bikes in-bounds.
In fact, a particularly hearty rider managed to leave a bike north of Arden Way:
A couple days later, I found that the bike was even further away, having been ditched somewhere in Del Paso Heights. But when I zoomed out a bit more…
Yeah. Someone managed to take a Jump Bike all the way out to the far side of Rancho Cordova. Impressive. A quick check of the app showed that the bike’s battery was still 59% charged, so even that ridiculously long ride failed to drain the battery. A few hours later the bike disappeared from the map, so perhaps a Jump Bikes employee had retrieved it before it ended up in Folsom.
While it’s unusual for bikes to be deposited in such remote locations, this problem is emblematic of a larger issue. Walking around Downtown, I’ve seen several bikes deposited in alleys, or left standing on a sidewalk, not locked to anything. According to the help section of the Jump Bikes site, the most recent user of a bike not locked securely will be charged a $25 fee. However, it’s unclear how the system would determine if a bike wasn’t locked down; perhaps if a bike changes location while in a locked state, the system automatically detects it and assesses the fine. Regardless, it still seems to be a common issue.
While I’ve seen a number of new bike hubs pop up while writing this article, many Jump Bikes still end up locked to street signs (something I was guilty of). This is an unavoidable issue, as residential areas in the service area are largely devoid of bike racks. Your options are to either park your bike in the business district and hike back home, or ride home and hitch it to the most convenient street sign. That’s an easy choice to make, especially on hot days.
That’s a challenge the City of Sacramento is going to have to wrestle with a bit, especially given the City Council’s opposition to free-standing shared bikes. Installing Jump Bikes’ hubs on just about every block isn’t feasible, given the valuable parking spaces they take up. Either the city will either have to avert its eyes and tolerate the unsanctioned use of signage as hitching posts, give way on the prohibition of free-standing bikes, or significantly increase the distribution of bike racks and ignore complaints over the resulting loss of parking spaces.
Also, it will be interesting to see if Jump Bikes takes steps to tamp down on the number of bikes wandering outside the service area. A bounty program—with a cash- or credit-based reward for returning bikes back to the service area—would be a great way to reintroduce bikes back into the ecosystem quickly and reduce unprofitable downtime.
Regardless of these shortcomings, it’s clear that Jump Bikes are already seeing wide usage in the Sacramento area. And the visibility and convenience of the program will only increase with the planned introduction of an additional 600 bikes. We’re very interested to see how this program develops, and whether it will lead to the introduction of other shared forms of transportation, such as hubless scooters and motorbikes.
Given Sacramento’s renowned bike-friendliness, and the rapidly growing popularity of Jump Bikes, the city may ultimately prove to be the model for other bike share programs across the country.