If you live in an urban area like Washington, D.C., or San Francisco, then you’ve probably seen the Skittles rainbow-colored bikes taking over the sidewalks. What you might not know is the specifics of how they work, and how this service could revolutionize the office commute.
Bike sharing as we have come to know it has tended to be city-funded (sometimes in conjunction with private companies) and presented in the form of expensive-to-install docks of bikes. Recently, there has been a veritable boom of private startups looking to make bike sharing profitable. These bikes do not need to be returned to stations, and instead can be picked up and left anywhere within city limits.
Many of the companies offer a similar formula: ofo, LimeBike, Spin and Mobike all offer relatively cheaply constructed, dockless models at a low price point. The real game changer, though, was the introduction of JUMP bikes, an electric model at a slightly higher price point, in pilots in Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
Electric bikes could open up new realms of possibilities for overall bike sharing usage, as well as for commuting patterns in cities. People who bike to work are happier and healthier than those who take public transportation, and much more so than those who drive alone, according to several different studies.
However, not everyone has the physical capacity to bike the full distance of their commute, restricting some commutes to the most seasoned cyclists. The average trip of a traditional bike share user is 1.6 miles, the length of a trip that would usually be completed by either walking or taking a bus. So far, however, the average trip for JUMP’s electric bikes in D.C. is 3 miles, reaching the point at which someone may have taken a ride-hailing service like Lyft or Uber.
Perhaps the most convincing evidence so far of just how big of a development electric bikes could be is Uber’s very recent acquisition of JUMP for somewhere in the ballpark of $100 million to 200 million. We can expect these bikes to become even more popular than they already are with those kinds of resources.
So what does that mean for the commercial office space? Well, these electric bikes require charging stations in order to be effective, and a rise in popularity will necessitate more charging stations. This could introduce the idea of charging stations as an amenity for buildings to offer potential tenants.
Electric bike sharing could completely revamp the way we think about commuter benefits. Right now, many companies offer subsidized transit benefits that are used to take the train — but what if it went toward a bike-share membership? Or if we increased bike facilities in commercial office buildings to include showers and on-site repair, assuming more people will be biking to the office?
The mobility landscape is changing faster than ever before, especially in regards to private companies and new options. In the amenities arms race, it’s always smart to plan ahead and be on the cutting edge — including exploring the possibilities of electric bike share.
Rachel Karitis is the Director of Marketing at TransitScreen, a Washington, DC-based company providing real-time information about all nearby mobility options in cities around the world.