Data Driven Futures
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Uber switches gear to bikes and scooters

Written by Hannah McGrath

Uber is switching strategy from taxis to electric bikes and scooters as part of future growth plans, its chief executive has said.

The US-based firm is looking to diversify operations within its ride-hailing app technology in a bid to tap into a greater share of the $6 trillion mobility market, Dara Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times.

The change in focus towards more environmentally-friendly modes of transport that suit travellers in congested areas could help keep millions of customers using the app, as attitudes to transport shift away from individual car ownership, the Uber boss said.

Khosrowshahi told the paper: “During rush-hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks.”

He said that Uber would continue to invest in electronic modes of transport, despite the company reporting a loss of $4.5 billion last year.

“Short-term financially, maybe it’s not a win for us, but strategically long-term we think that is exactly where we want to head,” he told the paper.

Uber has already made inroads into the electronic bike market with the acquisition of Jump, a bike share startup, for a reported $200 million in April. It has also invested in Lime, an electric scooter firm.

The company has already trialled e-bike hire in its app in eight cities in the US and is planning a launch of pedal-assisted electric bikes in Berlin.

A spokesperson for Uber said they had “no statement to make” on any suggestion that the company could expand a bike hire scheme to users in London.

However, responding to the comments published in the Financial Times, Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at Transport for London (TfL) said he would welcome any moves from transport companies to extend bike hire to users in London.

“We welcome any plans to introduce electric bike hire, as well as the growth of dockless cycle hire schemes and our own popular Santander Cycles,” he said.

However, he said that it was vital for any operators to work closely with TfL and seek the approval of all 33 London boroughs to ensure the schemes are safely and responsively managed. Concerns included the issue of abandoned bikes creating hazards in some cities where similar schemes have been carried out, he said.

“We are pursuing a pan-London approach to managing dockless operators with London councils, which could include a new bye-law to help ensure that schemes are safe and responsibly managed with local issues in mind,” he added.

Uber has overcome several challenges to its dominance in the London ride hailing market in recent years, with a court awarding the company a 15 month probationary London operating licence after TfL had ruled it was not “fit and proper” to hold a private hire vehicles operator licence in September last year.

Uber was granted the probationary operating licence after demonstrating it had made significant changes to its governance.