Limebikes in the limelight
Who rides them? What's up with the color? The data collection? The pranks?
It’s been just over a month since the arrival of LimeBikes in town. According to a company rep, there are just under 1,000 bikes scattered in the area. The dockless bikeshare company was brought here as a regional pilot program organized by five local entities—the City of Reno, City of Sparks, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, University of Nevada, Reno and Washoe County.
Anyone with the mobile phone app can locate a bike resting on its kickstand somewhere and unlock it by scanning a QR code. The first half hour of the first ride is free, and after that, rides cost $1 per half hour. Reno’s LimeBikes are either single speed or three speeds, but other cities with more hills have bikes with eight speeds or even pedal assists. Cities like South Lake Tahoe have electric scooters. There are plans to eventually bring electric products to Reno.
According to an official LimeBike blog post, 21,000 Reno and Sparks-area riders took over 36,000 trips and rode over 35,000 miles in the first month. The farthest away a bike has been retrieved from is Silver Springs, about 40 miles from downtown Reno.
All of those company talking points are good ones to know—but they left us with a few questions about how things work, both on the streets and behind the scenes. So, we checked in with a few people who manage—and ride—the bikes.
LimeBike Operations Manager
How are the bikes serviced and maintained?
“We have a team that works seven days a week. We have folks that go grab them and do what we call ‘re-balancing,’ so bringing them back to areas where they have the best chance of being ridden, whether that’s downtown Reno or Sparks by the Marina, those types of areas. We have a couple of vans that survey the city—or ‘patrol’ is the best word, throughout the day. We have a team of about 10 people.”
What happens when there are LimeBike pranks—like when one was put on the island in Virginia Lake? Who has to retrieve those bikes?
“Ordinarily, it’s our job, and we’re going to do everything we can to retrieve a bike. If it is unsafe for our employees, I don’t want to put anyone in an unsafe spot. That’s when we partner with—whether it’s a local business that has a boat or the city—that’s when we partner with them and say ‘Hey, we need your help. We need this removed.’ But I’m not going to have one of my employees get hurt getting it.”
What happens to the bikes in the winter?
“All of the bikes are equipped to withstand winter conditions, so we don’t have any plans, at this point at least, to decrease the fleet in the winter months. Our fleet size fluctuates based on demand, but all of the bikes are equipped with various things to make sure they can withstand rain, snow and any kind of winter conditions.”
LimeBike Communications Coordinator
Bikes are being tracked by GPS. Does that give you access to information about us?
“We don’t collect demographic data, but it’s something that we would like to have—more insights into exactly who uses the bikes. One thing we’ve seen from studies on dockless bikeshares in other markets like Seattle and [Washington,] D.C.—and we take into account that it’s probably accurate for Reno—is that we’re seeing a variety of ridership. We see people who are commuting into work in the morning and the evenings, and we see people who are using it for recreation on the weekends, and we see tourists and locals alike. In Reno, 40 percent of rides start and stop at transit stations, so people are using these as their first- and last-mile commute to get to their destination.”
What if you don't have a cellphone?
“People can apply for the Lime Access program on our website. Then they are able to access a PayNearMe to put cash on their account and then call our customer service using a regular phone to unlock a bike. The idea is to make Lime as accessible to as many people as possible.”
[To qualify for the Lime Access program, an individual needs to demonstrate qualification or participation in any state or federally run assistance program. PayNearMe kiosks allow businesses and government agencies to accept cash payments. They’re located at places like CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven and Family Dollar around Reno.]
The bikes are more Kelly green than lime. What's up with that?
“The first generation of classic pedal bikes—the wheels actually look like limes. Our founders kind of went with the name ‘Lime’ because of how well these slices of lime fit with the image in our wheels, and also it’s a green fruit with the green sustainability aspect of it. We’re in the field of green transportation and smart mobility, so it fit well.”
Public Information Officer, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
What's the usage like at the Indian reservation?
“It’s my understanding that we’re the first Indian reservation [serviced by a bikeshare]. The way this came to fruition is that famous adage, ‘location, location, location.’ Our tribe has 28 acres between Reno and Sparks, so we got into this partnership with the City of Reno and the City of Sparks and Washoe County and the university. It was a natural fit.
“First off, our young people love it. School is out. We have a bunch of students who are going to our day camp. So, kids are jumping on LimeBikes and coming to day camps and using that to come home. We have employees using LimeBikes to get from one end of the colony to the other.”
What do you think of the LimeBikes?
“At first, I had a negative reaction because I don’t like sharing things very much. I lived in the Bay Area for a while, and I hated BART. I’d rather just take my own car, and I kind of compared it to that. But it’s actually really cool, and I dig it a lot. I feel bad for hating on it. And now we’re having a really fun date night on a Sunday and riding around to wherever and being spontaneous.”
on the Riverwalk
“You find a nice parking spot downtown, and you see a LimeBike, and you’re like, ‘Let’s go explore,’ and who knows what kind of opportunities might happen. Like, we could see something cool that we wouldn’t have seen on Cheney Street.”
on the Riverwalk
“It’s better than walking. I don’t have a car, and it’s fairly cheap. I’ve used it five or six times. [I’ve taken it] to the river, down to the park and on the Riverwalk.”
riding to the Eddy House
“I ride it to work. I work at the Motel 6, and I live at the shelter. [Before], we would walk everywhere, or we won’t even go to the place. And now thank God we have the LimeBikes, because we can get places faster.”