Metro-East News

Want to ride but don’t own a bike? Then this new service could be for you.

LimeBike: How it works

This is how LimeBike works. Simply scan to unlock, ride anywhere, and lock to end the ride. Getting around town just got a little bit easier!
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This is how LimeBike works. Simply scan to unlock, ride anywhere, and lock to end the ride. Getting around town just got a little bit easier!

A California-based company that plans to start offering bike-sharing services in St. Louis this spring is also looking for opportunities in Madison County.

LimeBike representatives have talked to officials in Edwardsville, Collinsville, Alton, Glen Carbon, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Madison County Transit and asked them to consider allowing the company to bring in a fleet of their lime-green bicycles for public use.

“We’d also love to serve communities in St. Clair County,” LimeBike director of strategic development Sam Sadle said Thursday.

It’s $1 for a half hour, 50 cents for students, and when you’re done, you just leave (the bike) in any commonly acceptable bicycle parking place.

Sam Sadle on the cost and logistics of LimeBike bike-sharing

Bike-sharing is different from traditional bike rental, which involves picking up a bicycle at a shop, paying to keep it for a day or half a day and returning it to the same location before closing time.

With bike-sharing, bicycles are parked at docking stations around town or in bike racks, parking spaces and other outdoor public places.

LimeBike has the second type of system, which is called “dockless.” People find available bicycles by using a smartphone app, similar to Uber, and unlock them by scanning a QR code.

“You are charged for the time that you’re riding,” Sadle said. “It’s $1 for a half hour, 50 cents for students, and when you’re done, you just leave (the bike) in any commonly acceptable bicycle parking place.”

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California-based LimeBike plans to start offering bike-sharing services in St. Louis this spring and is also looking for opportunities in Madison County. Users can find available bicycles by using a smartphone app and unlock them by scanning a QR code. LimeBike

Edwardsville mulls it over

Whether publicly or privately administered, bike-sharing is billed as an affordable, convenient and environmentally friendly way to get around.

Edwardsville alderman S.J. Morrison said there’s a lot of interest in bike-sharing in Madison County and that city officials are reviewing the experiences of other communities to determine what guidelines and regulations are needed.

The city and a bike-sharing company would have to sign off on a “memorandum of understanding” before the company could begin operating.

Edwardsville and the SIUE campus are very bike-friendly communities, and there’s a growing bike culture.

S.J. Morrison on why Edwardsville would embrace bike-sharing

Morrison also is director of marketing and planning for Madison County Transit, which has 130 miles of bike trails, and he organizes the annual Edwardsville Rotary Criterium bicycle race.

“Edwardsville and the SIUE campus are very bike-friendly communities,” he said. “And there’s a growing bike culture.”

Morrison prefers bike-sharing systems that are private and dockless. He doesn’t want the city to be responsible for owning or maintaining bicycles or infrastructure.

“The thing about LimeBike, there’s no public subsidy required,” he said. “There are no fees that have to be paid by the government. The rental of the bike is done by the individual.”

St. Louis is ready to go

LimeBike has placed more than 32,000 bicycles in North America, Sadle said. They’re scattered around 40 communities, including big cities such as Seattle, smaller cities such as Greensboro, North Carolina, and college campuses such as University of Notre Dame.

Four bike-sharing companies have expressed an interest in St. Louis, but none has applied for a permit, said city Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker. The city doesn’t plan to limit opportunities to one company.

“This provides another mode of transportation that will be available to the public,” Venker said. “We have neighborhoods with single-car or no-car households, and they rely on public transportation.”

We have neighborhoods with single-car or no-car households, and they rely on public transportation.

Deanna Venker on the need for bike-sharing in the city of St. Louis

Venker said bike-sharing could expand the use of Metro buses and trains if people ride bicycles to bus stops or MetroLink stations.

Last week, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance authorizing city agencies to regulate bike-sharing. The street department has developed a 14-page policy, covering everything from bicycle quality to the number of bicycles allowed and where they can be parked.

LimeBike could place up to 2,500 bicycles in the city under the new policy, Sadle said, but the company plans to monitor demand and respond accordingly.

Bryan Werner, executive director of Metro East Park and Recreation District, said he knows of no company, besides LimeBike, that is offering or planning to offer bike-sharing services in the metro-east.

“These are private ventures, so the market will ultimately decide whether it’s a good idea,” he said.

Bikes left in odd places

Bike-sharing has proved popular in cities all over the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s trouble-free.

“I think it can work, but any city that’s going to do it needs to be aware of the potential pitfalls,” said Steve Schmidt, founder and secretary of the Metro East Cycling club.

Schmidt also is rides manager for Trailnet, a St. Louis-based walking and biking advocacy group. Last month, it posted a story from Bicycling magazine called “Dallas LimeBikes end up in some pretty weird places” on its Facebook page.

Writer Matt Bevilacqua explains that LimeBike is one of five dockless bike-sharing companies that have brought thousands of bicycles into the city. Photos show bicycles hung on utility poles and thrown in ponds.

“That’s a lot of bicycles suddenly appearing on city streets, and some residents have complained about the ensuing clutter,” Bevilacqua writes. “Though the companies instruct users on proper etiquette for locking up (i.e. don’t block right-of-ways, don’t park on grass), their colorful bikes have wound up in some interesting places.”

The Washington Post published a similar story in October about dockless bike-sharing in Washington, D.C., where bicycles have been spotted in people’s yards, in front of building entrances, in the middle of sidewalks, even inside a Metro station.

“The National Park Service has seized more than a dozen found abandoned inside memorials, sidewalks and parking lots,” reporter Luz Lazo writes. “A LimeBike was left inside a Metro station. Another one was abandoned on the edge of the Arlington side of the Memorial Bridge.”

Teri Maddox: 618-239-2473, @BNDwriter

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