By: Kaitlyn Chan, co Editor-in-Chief
After the advent of ride-sharing networks such as Uber and Lyft, LimeBikes have been rolling in to the public limelight as a popular form of transportation. They can be spotted with increasing frequency around downtown Millbrae, with some Mills students even using them for their commute to school.
With an eye-catching color scheme of bright yellow and lime green, these bikes left out in public areas are not a result of biker negligence or an advertising ploy. Instead, the bikes are available for anyone to ride, with only the scan of a QR code needed to unlock a ride to any destination.
The San Mateo-based company, started in June 2017 by co-founders Brad Bao and Tony Sun, operates under the motto “smart mobility made simple.” Currently valued at $225 million, LimeBike has reach in fifty communities across twelve states and even has an international fleet in Germany and Switzerland. The company operates on a business model of convenience, affordability, and equity. The bikes do not have a specific docking location, allowing them to be accessed and deposited anywhere. Furthermore, their pricing model offers the cheapest bike sharing rates, with programs for low-income riders in which people who do not own smartphones or credit cards are able to reserve and use the bikes. A unique aspect of LimeBike is that it does not run on public subsidies, meaning city revenue is not touched at all in running the service.
LimeBike offers a variety of transportation fleets, mainly divided between traditional and electrically assisted bikes. Traditional bikes are available in three different speeds, the difference in gear ratio allowing for bikers to customize their ride according to how strenuous the trip is. The Lime-E fleet contains bikes equipped with a battery-powered smart motor to assist in pedaling. On the other hand, the Lime-S fleet provides the same service on battery-powered scooters, though a driver’s license is required for operation.
One may wonder how the electric fleets are maintained if there are no charging docks to return the vehicles to. LimeBike offers job opportunities to those interested in collecting electric scooters and bicycles to recharge, before redistributing them around the community.
In order to use a LimeBike, one must download the LimeBike app on their smartphone and purchase ride credits. Students and educators are given a half-price discount, where every half hour on a traditional bike costs $0.50. Using the GPS map on the app, a rider can locate where available bikes are nearby. After scanning the QR code or entering a six digit number on the bike, the user can then unlock the vehicle and ride. Once the destination is reached, the rider can relock the bike to end the ride.
Helmet laws vary by state, but in California, minors must wear a helmet when operating any bicycle. Continuing a dedication to safety, the LimeBike App also provides tips on how to ride bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters on the road, and where appropriate places to park the bike are located. No bike rack is needed due to the LimeBike’s own kickstand feature.
LimeBikes have been spotted around the downtown Millbrae area, mainly near the intersection of Hillcrest Boulevard and Magnolia, as well as the public library. Neighboring cities such as San Bruno and Burlingame have also been subject to the influx of LimeBikes. In addition to serving residential and downtown areas, the LimeBike Campus Program also extends its reach to many college campuses such as San Jose State University.
In terms of usability from a student perspective, Mills junior student Junior Cortez uses the LimeBike daily in order to commute. He explains that he has been using the bike sharing service for about two months, and that part of its convenience lends itself from the abundance of bikes available at Orange Memorial Park in South San Francisco.
Mills sophomores Bella Sinapopo and Naite Filimoehala also find LimeBikes helpful in providing daily transportation to school. Sinapopo usually finds an open bike near her house, and leaves it during the day near the Mills bike racks.
According to Sinapopo, the most appealing aspect of the LimeBike is how “It’s not too expensive like other bikes.”
Filimoehala also chimes in, saying, “You can have the bike for an entire twenty-four hours, as long as you don’t lock it.”
Aside from the utility and convenience of LimeBikes, the growing trend in ride-sharing networks also appeals to environmentally conscious minds. Reducing the number of cars on the road not only eases traffic congestion, but using bikes as an alternative form of transportation helps decrease our carbon emissions contributing to climate change and promotes an active, healthy lifestyle.
LimeBike’s growing influence has also attracted city partners interested in gathering data on busy roads and bikeways in efforts to improving transportation and roads for safer commutes.
With an efficient and commendable business model, as well as bells to ring for providing transportation options to underserved areas, LimeBike’s expanding presence is a favorable sign of communities coming together to develop solutions for climate change and equitable opportunities. In the meantime, find an open bike hanging around Millbrae and take it out for a spin.