Uber Rejiggers App to Highlight Its Bikes, Scooters in San Diego

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego is one of two metropolitan areas in which ride-hailing giant Uber has reformatted its mobile app to make it simpler for users to rent an electric bicycle or scooter.

With the previous version of Uber’s (NYSE: UBER) app, users had to navigate from the main menu to another part of the app to book nearby e-bikes and e-scooters from Uber’s Jump brand. (Uber also facilitated e-scooter rentals from Lime, a mobility company in which Uber has invested and, at times, been rumored to be considering for acquisition.)

Now it’s faster and easier for users to select a scooter or bike to rent.It’s the first time the company has offered any other options besides ride-hailing via the app’s home screen.

The now publicly traded vehicle-sharing company also launched the newly configured app in Atlanta this week.

Uber selected the two cities as the first in which it rolled out the update because of strong rider engagement and a wide selection of Jump and Lime vehicles, company spokesman Nick Smith says. How users engage with the updated app in those cities will determine where Uber expands it to next, he says.

The move comes at a time when competition among mobility companies in San Diego is growing fiercer.

In addition to Uber’s bright red Jump bikes and scooters, there are Lime’s green scooters, black and white scooters operated by Bird (which has also been rumored as an acquisition target), red scooters from Razor Share, Wheels Labs’ blue and black scooters, and Wind’s black and aquamarine scooters. Uber rival Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) is in the mix, too, having debuted a fleet of pink scooters in town the day after Uber did, back in December. And yet another scooter company, Skip, announced last week it would be adding its light-blue scooters to the local lineup.

Bird and other scooter rental services have come under fire in places such as Nashville, TN, where Mayor David Briley called for a ban on electric scooters following the death of a 26-year-old man in a scooter accident in May.

Scooters have also brought controversy in San Diego. Uber’s decision to highlight its Jump vehicles and Lime’s scooters in its app also comes as the city of San Diego has begun cracking down on companies that offer so-called dockless scooters and bicycles. As of July 1, each company that wants to operate in the city must apply for a six-month operational permit, which will cost about $5,000, plus shell out $150 per vehicle yearly.

They’ll also have to tell the city how many vehicles they have in town, and keep it at that level for months; twice yearly, the operators will have a chance to change their fleet size. Companies will, however, get some wiggle room to temporarily add more vehicles during big events, such as Comic-Con. The city also identified areas where it is requiring the companies to reduce their vehicles’ maximum speed, among other regulations.