It’s Uber…but for bicycles: The American on-demand leader takes a page from China

Business & Technology

The company that invented and exported much of the “sharing economy” business model of the past decade now finds itself a follower in a variation of that model. Uber announced on January 31 that it would finally test dockless bicycles, starting in San Francisco, Quartz reports.

  • Uber is over a year late to the dockless bikes party, because starting in 2016 and throughout 2017, Chinese cities flooded with the technology. Some Chinese companies even started testing in American cities last year.
  • Even Uber’s Chinese rival in ride-sharing, Didi Chuxing, expanded into dockless bicycles a month ago.
  • “It’s not clear if dockless bike-sharing is a winning business model, given the slim margins and logistical headaches. But to some degree, Didi and Uber’s near-simultaneous entry into the sector validates the trend,” Quartz writes.
  • One thing Uber is doing differently: The 250 bikes it is renting out are “pedal-assist electric bicycles,” which make it “easier to tackle San Francisco’s steep hills,” the New York Times notes (paywall).