Can bike taxis really compete with Uber? | FT

Pedal Me is taking on Uber with its taxi and cargo cycles. It claims to be faster, cleaner and more fun than petrol rivals. The FT’s Daniel Garrahan and Bethan Staton put it to the test by racing to the FT building in a Pedal Me bike and an Uber car.

Hailing a ride has never been easier thanks to smartphone apps such as uber but in congested cities it can often be quicker to walk a new london startup reckons it has the answer a faster cleaner cheaper alternative that doesn’t rely on the gig economy but can pedal power competes we’re gonna find that so one of the main reasons i should use pedal me instead of

Uber it’s fun because it’s fast around the center will be cheaper than any of the competition you bar addison lee any of these incumbents pedal me has just 40 odd electric assist bike taxis in its fleet and they double up to deliver cargo where uber can call on thousands of drivers but pedal me is confident that it can beat any car from a standing start so the

Journey time will be quicker where we were struggle is getting two people out at a time if people call for us to come straight away faster more fern and cheaper pedal me makes some bold claims and i want to know if they stand up so my colleague bethan is here to help me put it to the test it’s pedal me versus uber the race so both in its pre o’clock i’m gonna

Go with pedal me you’re going to go with either yeah i reckon i’m gonna win i don’t know i think the traffic’s pretty light we might have a clear route all the way back to the office my bike will be able to bob and weave through the traffic you might get stuck going over the bridge we’ll see i’m gonna i’m gonna go for the car so we order let’s see let’s do it

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Yeah two one set pickup who’s gonna get here first the bike the bike or the car the starting line is elephant & castle a couple of miles down the road from the financial times did you get an estimated price no i’ve got a pickup in approximately six minutes though which seems pretty good considering the size of the fleet okay we’re two minutes away about two

Minutes away so you certainly had a bit of a head start my drivers now six minutes away okay mister traffic there’s lots that’s changeable oh they’re taking different routes it’s also much easier to see when the bike appears you’re not like peering at number plates this is our car you guys have got a head start but the pedal me bike arrives just seconds after

The uber we are going to the bioscience ok ok yeah i’ll make this as graceful as possible pedal me supplies poncho’s to keep passengers dry but it’s a great drizzly day in london and my backside is soaked after i climb onto the wetsuit it should be wait for those guys yeah let’s go so the race is on it’s bracken house friday street this is it just directing

You in in a circle i mean it’s basically just noir this is the problem the ride surprisingly smooth and we glide over speed bumps it’s a lot of fun too and we turned quite a few heads along the way pedal me says the man for its taxi service doesn’t drop off as much as you would expect in the winter i’m surprised to hear this my only real gripe is how cold it

Is sitting up front still could be worse it’s okay it’s okay don’t worry about it after driving around in circles for more than 10 minutes and still south of the river uber driver has had enough we’ve got out of the initial over probably i don’t i don’t know about 500 meters from our original starting point and we’ve got to order another uber so from here an

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Uberx is going to be 8 to 10 pounds and we’ve already spent 6 pounds on that meanwhile i fail to point out where the right turn to the ft building is forcing us to go out of our way and do a u-turn how’s my mistake let you back into the race in a word no yeah i don’t really i i actually just don’t can’t really understand how the app works can you go gay walk

Will cancel and wouldn’t you know it the same over driver comes back finally and with the light fading fast we try allison lee i arrived back at ft hq after just 11 minutes and there’s no sign of bethany okay third time lucky hi why do you call this i had a bit of an adventure i have a look at how long it took us okay about an hour and five minutes because

My journey took 11 minutes 11 right so clearly that wasn’t a straight for you it wasn’t a straight forwards uber journey taxi driver decided that he’d had enough and threw us out the taxi three routes when we we left the taxi and a kind of consensual i think we decided it was best friend trip the final addison lee trip took 18 minutes i was totally sure sadistic

That isn’t it even if you forget about the terrible journey you just had exactly all things being equal yours to 18 yeah it even even discounting the 40 minutes of chaos that we went through how was your journey it was cold okay i expect and wet and a little damp the crucial thing is just the speed of the journey i mean yes bethan has spent seven pounds on her

First new bear then she had to fork out another seven pound cancellation fee for the second and then 11 pound 52 addison lee i was surprised that my rider took just six minutes to arrive that’s because i was within the congestion charge cernan outside central london it can take up to an hour at the minute our business is overwhelmingly cargo the issue is that

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Passengers demand immediate service and they need you to be there at exactly the right time we can’t get to people quickly enough and it’s a real frustration to me that we don’t quite have the resources that we need to do that job properly and that’s why we’re crowdfunding at the minute and of course it’s very different business model to base it’s not a gig

Economy you employ people what why did you decide to go down that path instead of operating within the big economy for us they were always going to be huge problems trying to run a contractor model we felt that for us to offer contractor model where we were renting out bikes to riders and then they were contractors that seemed for chillin and we always wanted

To have this really close link to the riders because we invest a lot of time in training them we’re a cooperative and everyone gets shares in the company after working for us we’re out six months of full-time cities want less motor traffic that they need to manage the amount of motor traffic for air pollution reasons and that will create an increasing advantage

For us in time pedal me says its share of london’s passenger market could be worth between 250 million pounds and a billion pounds but it would need a fleet of around six thousand bikes and it could take years to scale up to meet the demands for now it’s a small fish the pedal me can get you places in central london quickly in a vehicle that doesn’t contribute

To air pollution just make sure you wrap up warm and be prepared for a soggy bottom

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Can bike taxis really compete with Uber? | FT By Financial Times

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