Yesterday the Bronx got its first dockless bike share program courtesy of Jump, an Uber-owned company that is testing 200 electric bikes in the Fordham area for the next four months. (Citi Bike's dockless bikes are also coming there in a few weeks.)
Although I don't live close to the zone where Jump has placed these bikes, I decided I had to try one. My northern Manhattan neighborhood is extremely hilly, and an electric bike share program would be a dream.
So I got on my standard bicycle and pedaled over to the Bronx.
As I crossed the Harlem River and headed north, I spotted the first neon-red Jump bike locked to a street sign near the Grand Concourse and 170th Street, which is technically outside of the program's zone (according to Jump's rules, you can leave the designated area while using the bike, but must come back when you're done and lock it to a bike rack).
I eventually made my way further east to Tremont Park, where I found a bunch of the hard-to-miss bikes at the park's entrance without having to consult the app's map.
I'll admit it took me a while to figure out how to get the code from Jump and enter it on the bike's back panel. But after playing around with the app and the panel's buttons for a few minutes, I eventually figured it out. The metal U-bar that acts as a lock popped out from the side of the bike. I then pulled it out completely and placed it in the front basket. I was on my way!
It turns out riding one of Jump's bikes in the Bronx is almost like being famous. Everywhere I went, people pointed at me or shouted "Nice bike!" Some even wanted to touch it.
After hearing about it on the news, folks seemed to know that the bike share program was owned by Uber. But understanding how it worked was a different matter.
I tried to explain as much as I knew–it's $2 for the first half hour and 7 cents for every additional minute, and you have to download the app on your phone and give a credit card number to register. I later found out that there are plans and discounts available to NYCHA residents and those who receive SNAP benefits.
During my 30-minute spin I explored nearby Crotona Park, whizzing up and down the small hills and generally enjoying myself. Because the technology is pedal-assist, I only needed to pedal a bit for the bike's motor to kick in. It didn't matter that the bike was heavy.
On bigger hills I had to exert myself a tad more, but I never broke a sweat or started huffing and puffing. I returned the bike with one minute to spare–the back panel keeps track of the duration, distance and cost of your trip.
The verdict? I'm completely sold. Hamilton Heights–and the many other northern Manhattan neighborhoods with impressive hills and zero bike share programs–need Jump's electric bikes now. Paging Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg!