As of today, renting an electric bike in Denver is as easy as opening an app. JUMP, a company acquired by ride-share giant Uber last spring, launched 250 electric bikes in Denver on Friday and plans to scale up to 500 e-bikes by early 2019. The first of its kind to launch in the city, JUMP’s service is the product of  Denver’s Dockless Mobility Pilot Permit Program, which just last month permitted five electric scooter and two electric bike companies to operate in the city, so long as they comply with local ordinances.

The bikes are pedal-assisted—meaning they provide an electric-assist boost with each pedal up to 20 miles-per-hour—and, because they’re “Class 1” electric vehicles, they can be ridden in bike lanes, on paths, and on city streets. They follow all the same rules as regular bicycles, according to Dave Nelson, regional general manager of JUMP.

The bikes can be found by using either Uber’s or JUMP’s mobile app; if using the Uber app, users can tap the menu in the top left corner and select “Bikes,” after which the available JUMP bikes will appear and riders can select and reserve their ride. The app gives users a pin number with which to unlock the bike and begin riding. The initial cost is $1, plus 15 cents per minute after five minutes (which calculates to $9/hour). In an effort to expand the service to low-income residents, JUMP is also offering a cash-based, low-income membership—$5 a month for those who qualify. And for residents who don’t own a smartphone, JUMP bikes can be reserved by contacting customer support.

Per an agreement with the city of Denver, JUMP staff will collect its bikes at the end of each day and return them to RTD bus or light-rail stations, Nelson says. However, after riding, users are required to lock the bikes (locks are included) to any public rack in the service area shown on the app’s map. The service area does not yet include Denver’s entire city limits, but the bikes will be available in the “greater downtown neighborhoods, including Highlands, RiNo, Cherry Creek, and Hilltop,” according to a statement from Uber spokeswoman Stephanie Sedlak.

Photo by Jerilyn Forsythe

The new electric-bike rental service is launching on the heals of what was a controversial summer for e-scooter companies. In late May, Bird and LimeBike gave the city little notice before dropping several hundred scooters in Denver—a move that prompted officials to confiscate the scooters and force both companies to temporarily cease operations. Ultimately, Bird and LimeBike went through the same permitting process as JUMP, and began operating again in late July.

The permits given to Bird, LimeBike, and JUMP are each conditional, based on whether the companies and riders follow city rules, according to Heather Burke, public information specialist for Denver Public Works (DPW). “The permits are revocable, so it’s in the operator’s best interest to encourage users to ride responsibly and park appropriately at bus and transit stops,” Burke says. Moreover, the city is continuing to monitor the activity of electric scooters, which we’ve seen left unattended on sidewalks and on bike paths—a violation of city ordinance. “This is a new mobility option for Denver, so we know there’s going to be a learning curve for everyone,” Burke says. “Our teams continue to monitor behavior and are in close communication with the operators about compliance issues.” Burke says DPW has also been speaking with and receiving comments from residents during the pilot period.

While the scooters and e-bikes will, on some level, be competing with each other for riders, Sedlak says the growth of transportation options in the city is a net positive. “We’ve been excited to see that riders are choosing modes of transportation other than a personal car that is most convenient for them,” she says. “Whether that is in an Uber, on a bike, on the light rail, on a scooter, or more.”  The proliferation of new electric ride-share options could also impact some of the long-standing options, like Denver B-Cycle. But Burke says the city is monitoring the extent to which new forms of dockless mobility are impacting behavior change and that each new operator (JUMP, for instance) is required to to share utilization data in order to coordinate with other services.

Denver is the eighth city in which JUMP has launched its electric bike rental service, joining San Francisco, Washington D.C., Santa Cruz, Chicago, Austin, Sacramento, and  New York City. The city also granted the popular ride-sharing company Lyft a permit to deploy 500 bikes within the next six months.

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.