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Bright Bikes Light up Rome

October 26, 2019

Something radical happened in Rome last week. Like a sudden ray of sunshine in a cloudy sky, I caught a glimpse of day glow red along Viale Trastevere as I was biking through traffic. Parked neatly on the wide sidewalk were 7 or 8 beautiful electric bikes, brilliantly designed, complete with rigid baskets in front, lights, locks, and sturdy kickstands. They came out of the blue. Although I am pretty well informed about Rome’s plans for micromobility, the last I had heard on bike sharing was that another call for bids had gone out but it seemed that after the disastrous vandalism of O-Bike and Go-Bee-Bike no company would be foolish enough to respond. Well, Uber was. 

I tried out the system yesterday, parking my own folding bike in Trastevere, switching to a Jump bike to head across the river and up to the Esquiline to teach. I had downloaded the App previously on my iphone, and since I was already an Uber user I didn’t need to enter any further payment information. The bike opened and after a serious of instructional screens (which I ignored since I was in a hurry) I was on my way. 

The bikes are heavy, but once the electric assist kicks in I zipped along effortlessly. I had ridden electric bikes before and remember that at first it’s a bit disconcerting, as if someone is pushing you from behind, but you get used to it quickly. The ride up the hill to San Pietro in Vincoli, a real challenge on my little folding bike, was effortless. Parking was less intuitive, the App indicated that the bike should be locked, if possible, to an official bike rack (in Rome there are about 5 in the whole city). It took a few clicks to get an option to click “DONE” A moment later an email came in from Uber Base Fare 0,50  Duration Fare €,2,20 €Subtotal 2,70. 

Now $3.00 for a ride across town isn’t bike-sharing rates (the standard policy was always to charge a small hourly fee and make money through advertising), but for very good service it isn’t actually excessive. Public transit is cheaper but it’s hard to compare; the Jump bike got me right to my destination in minutes, very unlikely with a bus or metro. It’s still cheaper than a taxi and in most cases faster, although I wouldn’t do it with luggage or passengers. As I see it, the Jump bikes are a welcome addition to the mix of Rome’s mobility options. 

Jump_circle.png

I almost hesitated to write this positive review after my return trip when I was charged a €25 surcharge for parking in a no-parking zone. This was probably my fault — I hadn’t read the rules very carefully — but as the €0.20/minute clock was ticking and I hit a red light at Ponte Garibaldi across the street from where my own bike was parked I decided to park it near the corner. A warning appeared that I would be fined )— I thought because I was too close to the corner so I moved the bike further down between the trees where it wasn’t blocking anyone and where scooters were already parked. 

The App is still a bit glitchy and the areas that should have been indicated as off limits in the map aren’t shown. The instructions at some point sent me to the map of London, where parking areas were clearly indicated.  When I received the notice of the fine I contacted customer support and sorted it out, they removed the fine but said they wouldn’t be able to do it a second time. 

What I realized is that Uber has prohibited parking near the river, a smart move after previous bike sharing bikes were thrown off the bridges and into the water. The weight of the bikes should discourage vandals from moving them, and it makes a lot of sense to hold riders responsible for not obstructing pedestrians. 

I give the new Uber Jump bike sharing service Five Stars.  If you want to sign up to try it out use my link and I get some credits https://www.uber.com/invite/tomr1165

Sadly it looks like one of these beautiful things has already been thrown in the river. (Hopefully followed by the idiot that committed this crime)

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 28, 2019 07:20

    hum, if “there are about 5 in the whole city”, i.e. bike racks it is not just the price that seems to contradict sharing idea but also the lack of flexibility when using a bike. being outrageously high charged when leaving the bike in a non-rack place qualifies the price issue even more.
    not at all agreeing with destroying bikes ,,, I guess you know why such services are met with reluctance and even boycott ?

    Like

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