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SF grants first-ever permit for dockless ‘e-bike’ sharing

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Dockless bike-sharing service JUMP has been granted a permit to allow users to rent electric bikes through mobile phone apps in San Francisco. (Courtesy photo)

Hundreds of blue bikes rest in elaborate docks on parking spaces throughout downtown San Francisco, ready to be unlocked and whisked away by paying customers.

But soon electric bikes rented through mobile phone apps — which can be left anywhere, without a dock — will dot The City’s streets.

The vision of the future came Tuesday afternoon, when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced its first-ever permit granted to a dockless bike-sharing service: Social Bicycle’s JUMP.

SEE RELATED: Brewing bikeshare battle may threaten SF’s Ford GoBike contract

Social Bicycle’s JUMP Mobility offers electric bikes, or “e-bikes,” and 100 of those orange e-bikes already debuted on San Francisco’s streets. Now that JUMP has been granted a permit that number will expand to 250 as part of an 18-month pilot program, according to the SFMTA.

San Francisco already hosts the Ford GoBike bikeshare fleet, which launched its blue bikes under the moniker Bay Area Bike Share in 2013 as a pilot project with just 700 bikes in The City.

In June 2017, the system rebranded as Ford GoBike (which is administered by Motivate), and promised 1,750 bikes available for rent at docks throughout San Francisco by the end of 2017, and 7,000 bikes by 2018.

That rollout came through an exclusivity agreement with Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, to be the sole provider of docked bikes.

The potential permit to JUMP last year prompted conflict between the SFMTA and Motivate, which entered into an arbitration process that at the end of November 2017 was ultimately settled.

That settlement agreement allows an exemption in Motivate’s exclusivity contract with San Francisco for e-bikes to enter the market. Motivate also plans to launch e-bikes in San Francisco.

“We’re looking forward to adding shared e-bikes to the Ford GoBike system in April and continuing to work with public sector partners to expand our equitable, transit-integrated service across the Bay Area,” said Julie Wood, a Motivate spokesperson.

Stationless bikes are allowed to be “parked” on sidewalk bike racks, or in the section of the sidewalk closest to the street, which city planners call the “furniture zone,” according to the SFMTA.

At the end of 18 months, the SFMTA will evaluate how well the JUMP e-bike program worked, and if tweaks to the approach are needed.

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