Uber Jump ends Melbourne bike share after three weeks of operation

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Melbourne has had a troubled relationship with bike share schemes in recent years. The ill-fated oBike dockless scheme was pulled from city streets in June 2018, less than a year after it began, and the Melbourne Bike Share scheme was shuttered in August 2019 due to a lack of use. Now, the city’s latest bike share venture, Jump, has wound to a close as well.

The Uber-backed e-bike scheme — Melbourne’s first — launched on March 4 this year to considerable media attention and plenty of scepticism. The program was paused three weeks later, on March 25, as COVID-19 took hold and lockdowns began.

Earlier this week, after a hiatus of nearly three months, Jump announced it had been acquired by fellow micromobility company Lime, spelling the end of the Jump e-bike scheme in Melbourne.

“Today we announced that Jump is joining forces with Lime,” an email to Jump users read. “While we have loved offering you electric bikes, as part of this change we are sorry to tell you that Jump will no longer be available in Melbourne.”

CyclingTips reached out to new owners Lime to find out whether the San Francisco-based company had plans to install its own e-bikes in Melbourne.

“On Tuesday Lime formally acquired Jump’s business operations in Australia,” said Mitchell Price, Lime’s Head of Government Relations for Australia and New Zealand. “Lime is committed to creating new jobs to help Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and is actively monitoring official health advice to determine when it is appropriate to recommence Lime and JUMP services.

“We are excited to provide improved micromobility transport options for Australia and are now taking time to work closely with councils and other stakeholders prior to recommencing our ride share schemes.”

In March, The Age newspaper reported that thousands of Lime e-scooters were sitting unused in a Melbourne warehouse, the victim of local laws that effectively prohibit their use. Price told The Age at the time that Lime had chosen to downsize its Australian operations due to an “absence of supportive legislation in key markets including Melbourne.

“Until anti-scooter laws change, Lime is unable to provide Melburnians the benefits of electric scooters,” he continued.

The news of Jump’s Melbourne shutdown comes roughly six weeks after Lime announced it had raised $170 million in an investment funding round led by Uber and with contributions from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, among others. Lime acquire Jump as part of that investment.

Tens of thousands of Jump e-bikes were reportedly scrapped in the fallout from the deal. That prompted considerable outrage on social media and had echoes of the collapse of the Chinese bikeshare industry, as reported on CyclingTips.

It’s not clear whether Melbourne’s Jump e-bikes are also destined for the the scrapheap or whether they’ll be recycled in some fashion.

Could it be that Lime plans to restart the Melbourne e-bike scheme once coronavirus restrictions are over? Price’s words certainly hint at that possibility, and something similar is reportedly in the works in Seattle. Still, it’s hard not to be sceptical given how bike share schemes have fared in Melbourne in recent years.

Either way, we’ll continue to watch this space with interest.

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