Or maybe this is fixable. We consulted an e-bike expert who thinks this is just a temporary setback. For now anyway, JUMP has collected all of its roughly 1,000 red bikes while they work out a solution. According to the ProJo,
Last week, as many as 100 juveniles on bikes wreaked havoc in the city, assaulting at least two people and stealing $85 worth of snacks from a convenience store. Many were on JUMP bikes, police said.
Three teenagers were charged earlier this week with robbing a man in a Providence neighborhood. They were all on JUMP bikes, the police said.
Please note that of the “100 juveniles” only “many” were on the JUMPs. And this problem predates JUMP bikes: gangs of rapscallions were probably scaring the horses on stolen penny farthings back in the day. This may be more about the novelty of having rack-loads of new bikes right around every corner, because when the locks are broken, the bikes lose their pedal-assist functioning. They become ordinary, albeit cool looking, red bikes.
Enter Dose electric bike correspondent Tyler Justin, owner of Mission Electric on Ives Street and the former head of on-street technology for Citi Bike in New York City, the nation’s largest bike-share program. His team helped shepherd that program from zero bikes in 2013 up to 89,000 rides/day on the system by the time he left four years later and to move here. He agreed to answer a few questions on this problem. The following has been edited for clarity.
PDD: Did you run into the same problems in New York City that we are dealing with here, and what did you do about it?
TJ: We did run into a lot of vandalism issues, especially when we first launched into new neighborhoods. That was when there was a lot of vandalism when we first put down bikes in new areas, and then after a little while it would sort of fade, it just became normalized, and people weren’t as into destroying them and messing around.
PDD: Do you see a design flaw in these JUMP bikes that didn’t exist in your Citi bikes?
TJ: There is a design flaw. We had our own challenges when we went through a couple different tweaks and things, but we spent a lot of time testing and abusing the equipment to try to make sure that we were putting stuff out there that could handle the city. It’s a rough land out there. (laughs)
PDD: Do you think they will figure this out?
TJ: I think yeah . . . they have to. This is a solvable problem . . . sort of a silly thing that folks were able to get the bikes free as easily as they were. And I think that there’s a little bit too much focus being put on the JUMP bikes as the problem. You know with this most recent incident with what was reported as being gangs of kids on bikes. . . . is it because there’s JUMP bikes that this thing happened? Or was it just a group of kids who happened to be together and stumbled on some bikes? It just seems that things are getting mixed up.
PDD: I had the same thought. They could have stolen anybody’s bikes.
TJ: The more these things are around and become normal, and not these special toys that show up sometimes, people don’t care anymore, and it just becomes like a park bench or whatever. It’s just part of the cityscape. And it’s for all things whether it’s electric bikes or scooters or whatever, the more we can just normalize them and not have them be this other, the better.
PDD: How long had you been open here [on Ives Street] before they launched JUMP?
TJ: I think they showed up around August of last summer and we opened around June and so it was pretty close to the same time.
PDD: Did you view that as competition, or is it just more good publicity for electric bikes?
TJ: Yeah absolutely! More awareness of electric bikes and what electric bikes are, it’s essentially like a free test drive for us and I was excited. It was just more people on bikes, more people out there on streets on bikes, and more people riding means more people seeing more people riding, and maybe bike infrastructure gets a little more attention, which means people ride . . . whatever gets people out of cars and into any other mode of transportation, whether skateboards or bikes or whatever, I’m for it.
We have to build culture around this, like we built culture around cars for the last hundred years, and we build our cities completely dependent on cars and how cars move around, and that’s how we determine what is good or bad or worthy or unworthy.
I hope that both the city and JUMP can come together and figure out a way to get the bikes back on the street.
***This just in: Our bicycle-loving Mayor just told WPRI News that this as a pause, adding that the company is working on the lock mechanism. They expect the bikes will return some time in the fall.