We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, e-bikes are now just a tap away! Josie Adams reviews the latest disruption in transport culture.
When Lime launched in 2018, New Zealand’s transport culture got the electric shock it needed. For too long we’d had traffic pile-ups, bus cancellations and hospitalised cyclists. For the first few months, the Limes were low status. Then, their ubiquity forced citizens and councilfolk alike to adjust how they saw the city.
Limes may be long gone from Auckland, but their legacy – 3200 council-approved e-scooters spread across the supercity from the North Shore to Papakura – lives on.
To get to Wynyard Quarter to test out Uber’s new e-bike, I naturally used an e-scooter (a Flamingo, because I am a patriot). For over a year now I’ve forgone driving distances less than 3km, because there’s always a scooter around.
With the Uber e-bike, which operates under the brand name Jump, that distance limit just increased.
No expense has been spared in the creation of this bike. Its wheels are road-worthy, it has good suspension, and the adjustable seat makes it a comfortable ride for anyone never featured in an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!.
There’s a basket on the front, roomy enough for the farmers market and sturdy enough for the liquor store. There’s a fold-out phone slot in case you need to use GPS, and there’s a gear switch for hills.
The bikes cost a dollar to unlock, just like the Jump scooters, and then $0.38 per minute. The scooters cost $0.30 per minute, which is standard across all brands in New Zealand. Most scooters have top speeds of 25km/h and have more obstacles to navigate due to being used on footpaths, so the extra cost of an e-bike evens out thanks to sheer transport efficiency.
It’s a good-quality product. Henry Greenacre, head of Jump Australia and New Zealand, was over from headquarters to launch it. It’s the first Jump e-bike launch in Australasia and Asia-Pacific. I asked him if, as a red-blooded, true-blue Australian, it bothered him that Auckland got the first launch. “Yes,” he said.
Alongside him at the launch were mayor Phil Goff and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, both of whom managed to work in a little ribbing despite having speaking slots of about a minute each. “You all know how I feel about the roadworks,” said Kaye, smiling, even though we all knew it wasn’t a joke. Roadworks around the Auckland CBD are at an all-time frustrating high, and construction in general brought both injury and insult to Kaye’s cat, Charlie.
Goff’s quick speech included a very pointed “we are building cycle lanes!” One day, we will all praise Goff and his council for getting public transport options and cycleways off the ground. Today is not that day. He is a patient man.
We’ve got the Lightpath and a bike lane all the way to Westgate. Soon, there’ll be a cycleway from the city centre to Glen Innes and a path over the bridge and along the coast to get to the North Shore. Motorways that are being built and expanded are having cycleways and walkways put alongside them.
Auckland’s infrastructure is being redesigned for increased bike use, which is great news for Jump but also for us: e-bikes are quick, dodge traffic, and are kinder on the environment. They’re also light exercise, not heavy. “You don’t turn up at your destination sweating heavily,” said Goff. “In my job, that’s important.”
Our green-minded representatives put their helmets on for a photo-friendly ride around the Viaduct. Goff, when he looked up to see Kaye was already pedalling away, cried out, “Nikki! She’s beaten me off!”
I took the bike in a different direction: down Jellicoe Street where no one could see me trying out jumps on the Jump. I was told off by Lime when I used its new model to do some sick tricks, so I thought I’d spare Jump the heartache.
It has a maximum electric-assisted speed of just over 30km/h, but unlike the Jump e-scooters it doesn’t feel heavy. Because it’s electric-assisted and not fully electric-powered, it’s a smoother ride than any e-scooter. It glides. You can take hands off, feet off, and just let pure momentum take you from A to B.
Unfortunately, it’s nailed the sharing economy bike. It is for transport only. It cannot do tricks. The metal basket weighs down the front too much for a wheelie, and even at a full stand I couldn’t hop a curb. Someone with better muscles than me might have more luck.
When Lime first came to our shores in 2018, it wasn’t long before our rickety, home-grown Flamingo sprung up; followed by Beams, Neurons, and Jumps late last year. With e-bike licensing now a part of Auckland council’s plans – established separately from scooters – it won’t be long before other brands are vying for a slice of the pie.
Lime – gone but not forgotten – already has an established e-bike population in Sydney. Is it too much to hope that they could jump across the ditch now that Auckland council is in the bike game?
Jump e-bikes will be on Auckland streets from tomorrow morning (Wednesday, February 19).