Trying out bike share in SF

This week while visiting San Francisco I took a few rides on two e-bike shares operating here. One was the docking station-dependent Ford GoBike Plus and the other was a Jump bike.

Ford GoBike Plus

The only thing I liked about this bike was the built-in bungee strap on the front rack. The gearing was awful (I was pedaling like mad) and the throttle assist was awkward to use. Their app’s map also sent me over one of the steepest hills in the city, and I had to push the heavy bike up to the top of the hill. Braking on the way down the other side was scary, since there are lots of stop signs on SF’s steep roads and I had little confidence that the bike would actually stop. I took the bike to my hotel to pick up a few things and then had to navigate a number of bike-unfriendly streets to find the next dock.

The handy bungee cord in the basket on the front was the only redeeming feature of the Ford GoBike Plus.

The handy bungee cord in the basket on the front was the only redeeming feature of the Ford GoBike Plus.

It took so long to find a dock that I exceeded the 30 minute time for my single ride and ended up getting charged more than I expected. Overall, not a good experience.

Jump

This bike I actually kind of liked. It’s a rather dorky looking red bike with a huge front basket (with no cover or strap). It had normal twist shifters and the assist kicked in as expected when I was pedaling it was a much more intuitive ride than the Ford.

I picked this bike up since it was flagged as needing to be returned to a designated area so I’d get ride credit for moving it. (The battery was running low.)

The Jump bike’s short locking cable (on the other side of the bike) makes it awkward to park, but great pedal assist and a big basket for stuff made it a fun ride.

The Jump bike’s short locking cable (on the other side of the bike) makes it awkward to park, but great pedal assist and a big basket for stuff made it a fun ride.

The Jump app doesn’t have a route planner, so I winged it on my own and made my way to the destination. Oddly, the rack where the app wanted me to park had no signage or indication that it was a designated parking area.

Locking to the rack was a bit challenging, since the integrated cable lock on the bike is really short. I had to turn the bike around and back it into the rack after failing to be able to lock it oriented front-in.

Limited service areas

It seemed odd that both of the bike shares don’t include the part of the city where I was staying, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of the dockless feature of the Jump bike. You’d think they’d put these things near all of the hotels in the city to encourage folks to ride them. It can be challenging to figure out the limits of the bike share system and I didn’t get any indication when I parked that I was out of the service area, which could result in a hefty fee.

During my stay I did see lots of people using both systems, so they’re not sitting idle.

Being required to use a specific app for each is a a bit of a chore, as there are also rental stand-up scooters and Vespa-like scooters by at least two other companies around town. That’s a lot of apps, and a lot of “sign up with your credit card” moments that can make you think twice about whether you really want to take a ride.