When Uber sold off its e-transportation offshoot, Jump, earlier this year, the company was left with hundreds of employees that needed to be let go, and tens of thousands of electric bikes that, well, also needed to be let go… directly into the trash.
See, apparently when the e-scooter giant Lime took Jump off of Uber’s hands, the company wasn’t comfortable donating some of the “older-model” bikes to the new owners. And rather than repurposing the bikes for, I don’t know, essential workers who need new ways to get to the office, or teens looking to stay active during the summer, Uber, at the time, decided recycling was the way to go. But thankfully, at least one nonprofit found a better use for these worn out wheels.
Shared Mobility, a national transportation nonprofit based out in Buffalo, New York, told one local outlet earlier today that rather than letting Uber turn thousands of good bikes into useless garbage, they’d be better off used as bikes instead. The org announced that it’d be taking around three thousand of the bikes in total, doling most of them out as part of their e-vehicle sharing program that’s kicked off across the country. Five to six hundred of the Uber bikes will be specifically doled out across the greater Buffalo region.
As Shared Mobility Michael Galligano explained to The Buffalo News, the bikes will specifically be used to build out what’s being called “transportation libraries”: small-ish, locally-run hubs that loan out bikes and scooters—electronic or otherwise—all for free, as a way to expand the community’s current public transit system. The way Galligano put it, this network of libraries would give free access to “over $1 million [dollars]” worth of e-bikes.
It’s an idea that could appeal to lots of folks that are still getting used to returning to the office, while also getting used to the wonky commutes that come with traveling to and from those offices every day in the middle of a global pandemic. It could also help those of us who might work nights and weekends, a time when busses and trains might be delayed or nonexistent. And when just about one-quarter of Buffalo’s households don’t own a car, it’s easy to see locals jumping on board with the idea of expanding their current transit options.
The only downside, as Uber initially argued when talking about why these bikes should be junked in the first place, is that consumer-ready charging supplies aren’t readily available—which means that these e-bikes would have to be used as well, regular bikes. Aside from that, a company spokesperson said at the time that converting the bikes from e-powered to feet-powered raised too many issues with “maintenance, liability, safety.” But while the company said that it was recycling the bulk of these leftover devices, the Bikeshare Museum found out that they were actually destined for the scrapyard—which raises other (environmental) safety issues.