Not Even Worth Opening? DC Bars & Restaurants After COVID-19

  
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Dining & Nightlife in Washington, DC Before, During, After COVID

Washington, DC — plus its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia — entered their first stages of re-opening this week after two months of pandemic shelter-in-place orders. Political leaders and community stakeholders in the District and its neighbors are discussing ways to use public space to restore profitable business operations to bars and restaurants. With the public health and safety need for greater space to avoid virus spread — and historically low car traffic levels — there’s unprecedented momentum to give greater percentages of the street to dining, retail, walking, and bike riding.

To best analyze the context of this economic development gambit, Gordon Chaffin of StreetJustice.news — a transportation and urban planning news organization — talked with Raman Santra of Barred In DC — a blog that covers DC’s bar and nightlife scene.

This podcast was produced by Gordon Chaffin for StreetJustice.news. Please consider supporting local news like this at a time when advertising revenue crushes the remaining viability of community journalism.

A few more reporters to follow doing fantastic dining/nightlife coverage in DC: Laura Hayes at Washington City Paper, Jessica Sidman at WASHINGTONIAN, Chelsea Cirruzzo in several local outlets, and Leigh Giangreco in several local outlets.


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THE TRUTH: Uber Trashes JUMP Bikes in Video

Street Justice Newsletter: Special Edition (5/27/2020)

Special, Vacation-Breaking Edition: Hello from Jacksonville, where I have been on vacation this week to see my brother — a Navy pilot, and a recent first-time homebuyer. I dialed back in today to work on this story and I’m making it free for everyone. This story touches on many of the key issues of Street Justice: infrastructure, transport, energy, critical neighborhood amenities, housing, and more.

Please, please pledge via Patreon, subscribe on YouTube, and donate on Ko-Fi. This week has been a big picture thinking week looking at the frustrating nexus of critical journalism in 2020. To paraphrase my brother, this news organization may have “gained traction” on substance and community impact, but at what point should I consider my own personal stability?

My brother asked me: who comes first — you or the people you care about and work to serve? He wanted a simple answer. I said, “the people come first.” However, it’s not possible for me to continue unless more people pledge monthly subscriptions and we can access YouTube ad revenue by connecting with subscribers there. This may sound like do-gooder, cheesy bullshit. But, this is really how I feel and why my family is worried about me! I’m just the stubborn asshole that wants to believe good, important work will succeed.

Video Shows Uber Trashing JUMP E-bikes, Says They Were Unsafe for Consumer Re-Use

Bike and mobility industry advocates have had many concerns about the future of scooter- & bike-sharing company JUMP after Uber gave the market-leading operator to Lime — a competitor — plus $170 million in cash and Uber’s right to purchase Lime at a future date. Those industry, advocate, and stakeholder concerns were amplified today when a video went viral showing mechanical cranes lifting dozens of JUMP bikes in scrap-heap fashion. The vehicles are being recycled for raw materials, instead of being re-furbished for private citizen use. This comes at a time when bike shops are swamped as pandemic-era travelers seek bicycle transport in lieu of public transit.

The DC market saw the instant removal of JUMP’s shared e-bikes, a high-quality vehicle Street Justice sees used every day for errands and other essential trips. Lime is working to redeploy JUMP bikes next Monday June 1st, after transitioning the fleet to the fruit company’s operations system. This transaction meant that DC’s essential workers using JUMP bikes had to use Lime scooters over the last few weeks.

The video embedded above comes from Cris Moffit, who — so far as Street Justice could tell — is a bike advocate and entrepreneur from Florida. Reached for comment, Moffit gave us the statement below. He shared pictures with us that are included at the bottom of the story.

“I'm not directly involved in any way. A friend of mine works at the recycle yard in North Carolina that has the contract to dispose of them and he took the videos and shared them with me. I just felt like it was a very unfortunate outcome and maybe I could get it some exposure on Twitter to pressure them to do something better.”

The Bike Share Museum has for several weeks been sharing accusations that Lime intends to kill JUMP off completely while the citrus company has almost pulled out of all markets with its own e-bike. However, Lime sources have confirmed with me that they’re re-deploying JUMP bikes — with the JUMP branding. It’s not necessarily a clean, quick transition — but Lime isn’t killing JUMP.

If anyone is killing JUMP, it’s Uber’s desire to offload the bikeshare and shared scooter arm while the main ride-hailing option struggles to achieve its first profitable quarter for investors. The Bike Share Museum is an enthusiast-run operation that collects old bikes and scooter from sharing systems for commemoration and advocacy. Kurt Kaminer founded the Museum and has blogged about the Uber-JUMP-Lime transaction.

The Moffit video today depicting the reduction of a large fleet of JUMP bikes to component parts is distressing to so many advocates who see the need for affordable, capable bikes post coronavirus. If you’re looking for a villain, that’s Uber. The bikes in the video were Uber’s — not among the operational fleet that was sent to Lime. According to Moffit, the video comes from a North Carolina facility — though he and the Bike Share Museum are in South Florida.

Street Justice reached out to Lime. The company tells us that they “purchased all usable bikes, bike parts, and machinery.” Also, “nothing in the deal that requires them to take these steps, so questions about end-of-life are best directed at them.” The company confirmed their intention to re-launch JUMP bikes in DC on June 1, but cautioned they’re meeting with DDOT this week and regulatory issues may cause a delay.

Street Justice would have reached out to Uber for info, but they fired all of our sources — indeed, even canning the engineers who understand the firmware that run JUMP’s motor and battery. After tweeting the statement Lime provided us, Uber got in touch. Both companies’ statements are at the bottom in full (emphasis ours).

Other information Uber provided to Street Justice: The company says that JUMP bikes were developed with custom parts and maintenance that require specially trained technicians. Lime has all the intellectual property and design, but not all the technicians Uber fired, so it may indeed be hard for the citrus-named company to re-deploy existing bikes. As Street Justice notes in our first two e-bike reviews [Riide 2; GoCycle GX], proprietary components seem great until they need to be fixed.

However, beyond the proprietary nature of JUMP bikes, Uber’s reasons for not upcycling the vehicles strain credulity. The company offered Street Justice the explanation that there’s no “consumer-grade” charging set-up. But, e-bikes of all shapes and sizes — including the JUMP model being scrapped — have stuff you could retrofit with a trip to Home Depot and some YouTube tutorials. Uber says maintaining the bikes would be impossible in a regular bike shop. That’s true-ish.

It’s hard for consumers buying an e-bike of any kind to maintain it using regular bike shops since most of those are unwilling to work on electrical parts at all. There are standardized components (e.g., Bosch drivetrains and batteries). And many bike shops are beginning to work with them to perform diagnostics and fixes. DC needs more e-bike focused shops, for sure. But that’s not a unique problem to JUMP bikes.

Now into the absolute ridiculousness of Uber’s reasons. They told me that every day JUMP operations require safety protocols and that those steps and checks aren’t “accessible” to the average rider. But, all owned bikes and scooters should involve making sure it’s charged and the screws are tight and you’re riding with a helmet. These are bikes, not the Millenium Falcon. Uber told me that JUMP bikes are only designed for adults, so using the trashed bikes for youth re-furbishing/donation programs would be unsafe. That’s a surprise to Street Justice, who’s seen teenagers ride JUMP bikes all the time for all reasons. We celebrate how — anecdotally — a Hell of a lot more young people of color are riding them than analog bikes in Captial Bikeshare.

In short, Uber says those bikes being dismantled for parts are complicated beasts of math and poetry and surely only a hex wrench multitool-wearing computer whiz could safely use them. The bikes pictured in the videos are older generation vehicles than what Lime got in the transaction — and there are scooters being trashed as well. However, the parts which Uber used aren’t ineffable gems of the Ottoman Empire. They’re fucking Lithium-ion batteries and internally-geared wheel hubs. Children with iPads use more complicated and dangerous-in-theory tech every day. This is a deconstruction of old bikes rather than the material re-use and open-sourcing of software/firmware of still-usable electronics for maxim public benefit. Oh, gears and metal, I weep for thee.

Uber: “As part of our recent deal, Lime took possession of tens of thousands of new model JUMP bikes and scooters. We explored donating the remaining, older-model bikes, but given many significant issues—including maintenance, liability, safety concerns, and a lack of consumer-grade charging equipment—we decided the best approach was to responsibly recycle them. It’s our understanding that Lime has already begun deploying many of the bikes and scooters they’ve acquired from us, and will continue to do so in other markets.” ~ Uber Spokesperson

Lime: “Lime is committed to providing safe and affordable bike and scooter solutions for the communities we serve. As part of the JUMP acquisition, we took possession of tens of thousands of e-bikes -- including the spare parts and tools to fix them -- and have already begun to deploy them.  We have not recycled any of the JUMP e-bikes in our fleet and are committed to scaling and operating them during this critical time. Once the transaction officially closes, we plan to work with Uber to find sustainable ways to donate and re-use any remaining e-bikes in their inventory.” ~ Robert Gardner, Director of Government Relations at Lime



Bike Review - 28 mph E-bike from DC-Startup Riide

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 71 (5/24/2020)

DC-Startup Releases 2nd-Generation E-Bike with Large Battery and Strong, Quiet Motor

This past week, Street Justice was possibly the first news organization to get a media test of Riide’s second-generation electric bike. The DC-founded startup found success first with a homebuilt e-bike and their unique lease-to-own option. This week, we reviewed the Riide 2 — a more powerful, longer-range e-bike capable of 28 mph. Below is the transcript of the video review we produced (watch it here and share).

This is a first- look review at the Riide 2.

A few comments before I begin: this is a pre-production model of Riide’s second-generation electric bike. Take with a grain of salt my comments because the bike that I am reviewing doesn't have a mobile application that I could download to control the battery and motor as well as perform GPS monitoring of its location for security and other diagnostics. Customers who are pre-ordering now will receive a version of this bike with the finalized software for controlling the bike's motor and battery as well as an app. This bike does not have tactile controls of the speed or setting for motor responsiveness. So, this bike that I'm reviewing is set permanently on the turbo mode -- the fastest response to pedal input.

The Riide 2 is a 28 mile per hour electric bike, which means that it will assist your pedaling up to 28 miles an hour. It has a class 2 certification as well, which means that it has an electric throttle that will propel the bike at 20 miles per hour with the motor -- without you pedaling. A lot of design choices that the company has made are what will lead me to be critical of it, and it is a reason to be skeptical of buying this at approximately $3,200 dollars versus other options in the electric bike market.

The Riide 2 is an urban commuter, city bike with its frame design. It's got a low step frame which means that it's easier to step through if you can't lift your knee quite as high. The bike does not possess a set up for cages for water bottles or for locks or air pumps. They have a large battery here. This is more than 800 watt-hours, where the typical bike that you will get in the e-bike space has around 400 to 500 watt-hours. Just like the first generation Riide electric bike, they are using a hub motor here. This is a 500 Watt nominal motor with the capacity to peak out at 1.45 kilowatts or 1450 watts. That's a very wide range in the output and that means that this bike will provide a great amount of power near the top of the electric bike market before you get into closer to electric mopeds and electric motorcycles.

For the drivetrain, Riide chose a single-speed carbon belt drive system. Carbon belts are these rubberized with carbon reinforcement. They're much less requiring of maintenance -- of cleaning and lubrication. However, you can't put a derailleur and standard gears on a carbon driven bike. Since you can't put standard gears and
the rear wheel has its motor in the center, they can't have gearing on this
bike. Riide’s using a custom frame.

For stopping power, they use hydraulic disc brakes with 180-millimeter rotors which you can see here; they are Tektro Dorado, which is the gold standard among electric bicycle components. They have nice platform pedals that have little spikes here that grip into your shoes, and reflective gear. For lighting, Riide was originally planning to do an integrated light on the front fork here but have chosen for production to add a light to this mount here. For the rear lights they are planning a mount in the seat stay here.

For seating choices -- the saddle -- they're offering a choice between a performance seat and a comfort seat. I chose the performance thinking that they would give me a standard road bike saddle. But they have given me a firm C17 Brooks saddle. It's my recommendation that 90 to 95 percent of customers choose the comfort saddle because for everyday use you're going to need to have the padded lycra shorts with chamois in order to stand this.

For cockpit, Riide chose slightly swept-back bars like this. They have economic grips with a locking system that gives you extra support on the palm of your hand. However, they are not using any display for this bike. So, any information on real-time speed, distance, motor selection is all in the mobile application. For mounting accessories like lights, cameras, you have a relatively standardized 31.8 millimeter bar here. However, for stem mounting, these are closer to a premium racing bike stems where you can't put a rubber band or a traditional mounting system easily here.

This battery is removable; it's kind of a large version of the Bosch Power Tube. You turn the key, here it pops out. There is a button here that turns the bike on and off and will show you the real-time battery state of charge. Charging can be done with this rubber cap-protected charging port. And there's a similar port on the inside of the battery. It does them come standard with the kickstand here -- a relatively sturdy kickstand. However, being mounted right here at the crank means that -- as is the case during this video -- you have crank lockout where ou are stuck and you have to lift the bike up, turn the wheel in order to get this moving in either direction.

For tires, these are Schwabe Big Ben plus 650Bs. They are tubed tires, and these tires are high quality -- built especially for ebikes that go fast and tend to get more rider mileage than a traditional bike. the throttle here is a standard twist throttle like a motorcycle, connected to another ergonomic grip. From what I've seen in my operations, the throttle generates less steep of a power curve than the pedal assist. That could be because the throttle has a medium or low level of power curve whereas I'm stuck in turbo mode for this review and turbo mode 4instantly shoots you up past as much as your legs can carry. Unlike a lot of bikes that get into this price range there is no suspension here and this is a relatively stiff frame. So, you will feel bumps and I would advise running your tires at a lower than maximum pressure to limit the shock of road imperfections.

The problem with a single-speed electric bike is that -- in theory -- you can use the various levels of assistance in the motor in order to give you extra power when you're going up hills. However, since there's no way to change the motor responsiveness from
Eco to Turbo, Eco to Medium to Turbo. There's no way to shift using the motor responsiveness while you're climbing. Which means that, if you're in medium mode, you're stuck on medium mode. I am not sure if you'll be able to mount your phone on the handlebars and then have to go into your phone and in real time switch gears using the app. And, even if that's the case, that's a relatively clunky way to do a basic operations step on a very expensive bike.

So, overall, I like this bike. But, I do not think that it's worth your money if you're going to spend $2,800 - $3,300 on an electric bicycle that's going to replace core trips in your weekly routine. If this is for commuting and you're gonna be carrying a purse or a backpack that's filled with your lunch, that's filled with equipment, your better option is going to be something that has stronger, standardized, attachments for accessories. And, you're gonna want to look at options where the accessibility of the cockpit is not requiring of a smartphone app. The weather today is fine, but how many days of the week is it going to rain, is there going to be a reasonable chance of rain? How many days is it going to be too cold for you to have your phone out, in the elements, for you to monitor your speed your distance and the current responsiveness of the motor.

Riide tells me that they are designing and will manufacture and sell custom-built accessories for their frame. However, it is usually an expensive proposition -- and an unreliable proposition -- to invest in a small manufacturer that produces proprietary
components for a bike that's going to get regular use. This is gonna be a bike that gets all-weather use if you're gonna spend $3,000 on an electric bike that might replace your family's second car, this has got to be something that you know you that you can take to any bike shop in your city.

I don't mind the aggressive riding position and I do like the quality of their handlebars. For a motor that goes from 500 watts nominal, to essentially 1.5 kilowatts at peak, this is an extraordinarily quiet motor. With these hub driven motors you tend to get a whine, and it's not loud or obnoxious for some people But, this motor has been whisper quiet. And, because I've been stuck on turbo mode for this review, it's been spinning up to a high output even with just reasonable pedal input.

Much like our review of the Gocycle GX folding electric bike, there is an inherent trade-off in investing in a company that is small, that may not exist five years from now, and that doesn't have the capacity to build out a dealer network in America, in other countries. And where you're going to be able to handle in terms of reliability -- not just the mechanical components where you can go into any bike shop and get a tube for that tire replaced. You need to know that this expensive motor -- that the
controller hardware and software inside those tubes in that frame are easily
diagnosed and easily fixed within a timespan of a busy adult.


DC Camera Traffic Enforcement Update: More Confusing Separation of Powers Fights!

During Wednesday’s ANC 4D (Brightwood Park) meeting, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian gave a short presentation and the Commission facilitated a Q&A. I was a able to ask a question about the status of DDOT’s automated (i.e. camera) traffic enforcement. The Director gave the first straight answer in months about this program after Street Justice reported two weeks ago that DDOT was in full control of ATE after DC Police handed it over.

Read this Story


New Video Blogs Capture Behind the Scenes of a News Media Startup

I’ve started to produce video blogs capturing the stressful, frenetic, rewarding path of this news start-up. I hope you’ll subscribe to the Street Justice Youtube channel and follow the vlogs playlist.

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New Street Justice Calendar

The new Street Justice Calendar is ready. Hosted on the TeamUp calendar platform, it updates automatically with recurring events, allows for the submitting of events, and can be added to your own digital calendars. You can access it anytime at this link, but the password will change periodically, so keep checking the calendar section at the bottom of each Street Justice paid subscriber report. I will continue noting the events I hope to cover in person.

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Other Services Offered By Street Justice

> Virtual Meetings, Livestreams, A/V Recording - Best Practices and Options

> Presenting Sponsorship: Each Street Justice edition includes a Header and Footer graphic with two sponsor logo slots -- four total slots per edition. A presenting sponsorship purchases all four slots in each SJ report for the duration of the contract. Street Justice publishes Mon-Wed-Fri-Sun, so each week nets 16 total logo placements. This includes a referral link to the sponsor's website, activated when readers click the banners.

> Weekly Story Sponsorship: Every Sunday, I publish a free-to-read story in my weekly digest. This sponsorship would make that free story branded. This would include a header graphic and text. E.g., "Street Justice's Weekly Free Story, Powered by [Mobility Company]."

> Event Calendar Sponsorship: Every Street Justice edition includes a calendar of upcoming public events that involve or interest transportation/infrastructure. The calendar includes ANC meetings, City/County Council Meetings, Advisory Commission meetings, etc. This sponsorship would create a branded heading and text thank you. E.g., "Street Justice Events Calendar, Powered by [Mobility Company]"

> Website Services for Community Orgs - Sample Proposal

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