‘Jump’ start: Uber buys local dockless electric-bike maker as city considers bringing its cycles to streets

Ready to ride: Uber is in the works to purchase Brooklyn-based bike company Jump Bikes, which doesn’t yet operate in New York City.
Jump Bikes

This homegrown bike company is going places!

Bigwigs at car-hailing business Uber are scooping up a Fort Greene bicycle manufacturer in a deal that its founder hopes will bring the Brooklyn-made two-wheelers to more metropolises worldwide — including New York City, where the company’s pedal-assist-electric and dockless cycles may soon be allowed to cruise streets.

“A lot more of our resources can go toward bikes, expansion, and scaling our vision globally,” Jump leader Ryan Rzepecki said of what he expects from the sale.

The Silicon Valley firm reportedly paid upwards of $200 million for the start-up — which debuted its fleet in 2017, and produces bicycles at its headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — but the ink hasn’t officially dried on the purchase agreement, according to a Jump spokeswoman.

The local company’s fire-engine red cycles are deployed in a dockless sharing system that allows riders to rent them from and store them at any standard bicycle rack in cities where Jump’s bikes are available — which now only include San Francisco and Washington, DC — instead of dedicated racks like those for Citi Bikes.

Jump’s dockless system — the first of its kind, according to Rzepecki — offers better and more accessible transit options for urban dwellers, its founder claimed.

“My goal with this is to make cycling extremely accessible to people who normally wouldn’t consider biking,” he said. “We made the first-ever dockless bikes, which lowered costs to launch the project, and improved the user experience.”

The start-up’s bikes come in two styles — a human-powered bicycle propelled by a rider’s pedaling alone, and a pedal-assist-electric model, which is equipped with a battery that cyclists can activate when they need extra juice to help propel them through difficult terrain, Rzepecki said.

“Electric-assist really broadens the market, you don’t have to worry about showing up to work sweaty,” he said.

And the start-up’s sale will allow commuters to rent one of its bicycles — which will still bear the Jump name — using the Uber app, which shows users available car- and bike-hailing options so they can determine the best way to get from one place to another, according to Rzepecki.

“They will be still branded Jump, but you can take a bike at one location and drop it off at another within the Uber app,” he said. “Or you can look at bikes nearby, and take a car instead.”

News of Uber’s purchase of Jump came days after the mayor announced that he will introduce legislation allowing pedal-assist-electric bicycles that travel under 20 miles-per hour on city streets — an about face from the crackdown on electric bicycles he ordered last fall. New York State law forbids the use of entirely electric bikes that don’t require pedaling and can travel more than 20 miles-per hour.

And the start-up’s new owner is taking over as Department of Transportation leaders review proposals that 12 companies, including Jump, submitted to run the city’s first dockless bike-share program — a new alternative-transportation initiative that would follow the Citi Bike rental system instituted in 2013 under Mayor Bloomberg.

Rzepecki — who worked for the Transportation Department from 2008 to 2010 — believes his company has a shot at winning the business, and hopes that Brooklynites will be zipping around the borough on its cycles shortly after the city selects a winner for its dockless-bike scheme, which officials expect to do this summer.

“We have a good chance, but haven’t been told anything,” he said. “The city has control over it.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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