Uber may have lost the battle for Southeast Asia, but the firm is still trying to shake things up in other markets. Next to ferrying people around in cars, the American ride-sharing company is now offering on-demand personal electric vehicles in the form of bicycles and electric kick scooters in a growing number of cities. One of the places where you can now Uber around the streets on two wheels is Munich, and we couldn’t resist trying out this new way of getting around during a recent visit to the Bavarian capital.
The bright-red kick scooters and bicycles currently parked on sidewalks and at bike stands all around Munich don’t actually have the name Uber printed on them. Instead, they are operated under a brand called Jump, which is an American startup that was bought by Uber recently. As a result, Jump’s two-wheeled machines are now exclusively available through the Uber app, and booking one is very straightforward. Simply open the app, select the bicycle or scooter icon, and then check for the nearest one. Reserve it on the app and you’ll get 15 minutes to walk to its location, where you scan a barcode on the vehicle and off you go—but not before the app requires you to accept certain terms of rental and gives you some safety tips and advice on how to use the two-wheeled contraptions.
There are two different vehicles available: an electric kick scooter that, in compliance with German laws, won’t go faster than 20km/h and also has a number plate fitted, and a pedal-electric bicycle that still requires you to pedal but gives you an electric boost while you do so. The scooter and the bicycle can only be used on bicycle paths or on open roads if there is no bicycle lane available. And while helmets aren’t mandatory, they are definitely advised. Pricing is the same for both, consisting of a base fee of €1 (P56) and then €0.20 (P11) per minute of use. Once you’re done, simply park the vehicle on the sidewalk or in another safe location, and end the ride through the app. The scooter will lock itself automatically, while the bicycle needs a physical built-in lock to be engaged.
Besides Jump, other EKS providers like Tier, Lime, Circ and Voi are also trying to muscle in on the trend, and all of them are hoping to get a slice of the “last mile” market, which is where these devices really come in handy. That is also why it would be great to see more of this in Metro Manila, where scooters have become increasingly popular in recent times. Even the number of cyclists is growing due to people finally giving up on driving or using unreliable public transport. Imagine a scenario where, instead of cramming yourself into a jeepney to travel to work, you simply rent an EKS or an electric bike through an app and whiz through the streets with traffic never bothering you again.
Pricing is the same for both kick scooter and bicycle, consisting of a base fee of €1 and then €0.20 per minute of use
Local transport giant Grab is already trying EKS rentals in Metro Manila, but the process is a lot more cumbersome than the easy, book-and-go method used by Jump. This, of course, is partially down to the peculiarities of the local market, with Grab asking for a deposit or a government-issued ID because…well, you know the answer to this. Despite this hurdle, there is definitely massive potential to bring more of these machines to the masses in the Philippines.
The beauty of Uber kick scooters and bicycles is that both require no or only minimal physical input from the user, meaning Pinoy commuters could use them to get to work without having to worry about getting too sweaty. Being able to pick up and drop off a personal mobility device wherever and whenever you want is the ultimate in inner-city transport convenience, and we sincerely hope that this trend will play a bigger part in our cities in the future. If an over-regulated country like Germany can allow modern transport companies to operate and have their machines scattered all over town, then there is really no excuse why we here in Metro Manila can’t do the same.