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Monday, April 15, 2024

Joe Bikes becoming prevalent around campus

The subscription bike service provides an alternate method of transportation for Davis students and community members 

By RACHEL SHEY city@theaggie.org

Green and white Joe Bikes are becoming an increasingly common sight around campus, but some wonder if they are a good option for UC Davis students looking to start biking around campus. Joe Bike founder Jesper Wahlberg said that Joe Bikes are a unique new subscription service.  

“Joe Bike, a first in North America, is launching a Bike Subscription Service,” Wahlberg said via email. “For $24 a month students can subscribe to our service and get their very own bike 24:7.”

In a press release, Wahlberg mentioned that he founded the company to fill a hole he saw among college students in the bike market.  

“The commuter bike is having a moment in the US and we felt the time was now to launch a similar service, primarily targeting university students, in the US,” the press release reads. 

After visiting college campuses across the U.S. and talking to students, founders of the  company learned that “bike repairs and theft is a real hassle” and “a reason many students opt not to have a bike,” according to the press release. 

“By removing those two barriers and providing a service at a great value, we think we have created a really compelling mobility solution for students,” the press release reads. 

Bike Campaign and Bike Garage Founder Maria Contreras Tebbutt supports the idea of buying your own bike. The Bike Campaign has the goal of decreasing the number of car trips and encouraging more people to ride bikes. She suggested that Joe Bike was actually more work than owning a used bicycle and taking it to be repaired yourself.

“Let’s say you’ve got a flat tire and you now have to arrange for someone to come and fix your flat tire,” Tebbutt said. “The shop itself is only open 6 to 8 hours a week. It’s more complicated than owning your own bike. If you get a flat tire you can fix it yourself or take it over to a bike mechanic. You can change things on your bike, you can modify it to fit your life.”

While a usual bike repair costs a fee, Joe Bike repairs its bikes for free. They provide insurance in case the bike is stolen as well, according to Wahlberg.  

“The Joe Bike service includes free repairs and theft replacement,” Wahlberg said. “That’s right. if a student get’s their Joe Bike stolen, Joe Bike replaces it at no cost.”  

The terms of service on Joe Bike’s website state that if a police report is not produced in the case of a theft, Joe Bike will charge the subscriber a $600 fee. This fee is far more than the actual cost of the bike, but as long as the subscriber cares for the bike, it shouldn’t be difficult to avoid the fee.  

In the event of theft and a police report is not produced, Joe Bike reserves the right to charge you a one-time replacement charge of $600 USD; equivalent to the value of the Joe Bike,” the website reads.   

The bikes are “upcycled,” Wahlberg stated. Subscribers are provided a used bicycle, which will serve many students over its lifetime. This decreases the carbon footprint of the company and reduces the number of bikes which end up abandoned or in landfills.  

Tebbutt doubted that Joe Bike would take away business from existing bike shops. The old “Jump Bicycles,” which could be picked up at any place where they were found and only needed an app to activate, may have had more of an impact. But Tebbutt noted that people who want to buy a bike generally won’t settle for a subscription service.  

“Bike shops sell bikes, new bikes,” Tebbutt said. “It is not taking business away from a bike shop. I would say that when Davis had Jump bicycles, that had more of an impact. Joe Bikes are getting a segment of the market that wouldn’t buy a bike.”

Joe Bikes also have the potential to contribute to the problem with abandoned bikes that plagues Davis, Tebbutt said. The fees involved with abandoning the bike and not returning it properly may further discourage the irresponsible practice.  

“We’ve received calls from locations where bikes have been abandoned,” Tebbutt said. “Somebody signed up for the service and maybe they left town for the holidays and didn’t come back. Wherever they left the bike, that bike is now sitting there, months later, rusting away. Abandoned bikes, which are a problem in Davis, attract thieves. It looks bad, we don’t want them there.”

Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org

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