Lime bike destruction, e-scooter confusion overshadow successful ridership numbers in Reno-Sparks | nnbusinessview.com

Lime bike destruction, e-scooter confusion overshadow successful ridership numbers in Reno-Sparks

Claire Cudahy
ccudahy@swiftcom.com

LimeBike ridership numbers point to a successful pilot program, but issues with destruction and the launch of e-scooters dominate headlines.

RENO, Nev. — In Reno's Riverwalk District, a young couple rides a pair of Lime bikes down Sierra Street. Outside of The Eddy, they park the bikes against a railing, lock the wheel mechanisms and saunter into the outdoor bar.

It's a picture perfect example of how the dockless bike-sharing program that launched in Reno this May should work. And to a degree, it has.

Over the last five months, Lime — the company behind the bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters deployed in cities across the country — has recorded over 127,000 rides and 56,000 unique riders in Reno, officials said. The median trip is a half-mile and lasts 15 minutes.

Outside of Süp in Midtown Reno, there are usually five or six bikes parked in the restaurant's bike rack every day.

"We like Lime bikes and think they are a nice addition to Reno," said owner Kasey Christensen. "Bike sharing is a useful part of other big cities, and we welcome that type of program here in the Biggest Little City as well."

The city of Reno agrees.

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"Our community is a very auto-dependent, so finding different solutions for getting people out of cars is really important to the future of our community," said Lynne Barker, sustainability manager for the City of Reno. "The mayor and city council have committed to meet the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement, and 30 percent of our climate pollution is coming from transportation and 83 percent coming from passenger vehicle use."

The rides in Reno have saved an estimated 87,444 pounds of carbon emissions from entering the air and eliminated 64,412 miles of driving, according to Lime.

Lime: 'Our hands are tied'

But the launch of Lime in Reno and Sparks, including on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, has had its fair share of hiccups.

Bike destruction has continued at a steady clip. Though Lime says some destruction is anticipated initially as the public adjusts to the new lime-green fixtures, it has not tapered off in Reno-Sparks.

At a Reno City Council meeting in September, Lime revealed that the bikes are destroyed at a rate of nine per week — double the amount of other cities. The number of bikes stolen and stripped of their locking mechanism surged prior to the annual Burning Man festival in late August.

"We've lost a pretty big percentage of our fleet and that's very concerning," said Barker. "If our community wants these types of devices available to them, then our community is going to have to take care of them."

Lime originally deployed 1,000 bikes in Reno with the intention of adding in another 3,000, but Lime spokesperson Brooke Brumfield said the company has been holding off at the request of the city. There are now roughly 530 bikes in the area.

"There is a conflict between our loyal user base and committed fans in the region and the local government entities," Brumfield said in an email. "We are constantly asked to expand our services in droves by the folks living in and around the Reno area; however, our hands are tied while we wait for our partners at the city to work out the details of our services and safety in the region."

A different point of view in Sparks

That conflict intensified in mid-September when Lime launched 100 e-scooters, a move the company said was allowable under its franchise agreement.

However, the launch caught the cities of Reno and Sparks by surprise, resulting in a cease and desist from Reno and removal of the scooters from all communities.

Sparks was "surprised and frustrated" by the decision, said Community Relations Manager Julie Duewel, and less than a week later, City Council voted unanimously not to renew its franchise agreement with Lime, which expires Jan. 31, 2019.

Specifically, the cities were searching for legal clarification as to whether e-scooters are classified as mopeds, which would require DMV registration and put them in the road with cars.

However, according to the Nevada DMV, Lime e-scooters are classified as electric bikes, not mopeds, as previously reported by NNBV.

"It has been touch-and-go since the launch of Lime and the company's original regional agreement to today," wrote Brumfield. "Initially, all partners agreed to launch all Lime programs in the region (bikes, scooters, and [e-bikes]) but that changed over the course of the last several weeks and we are now only launched on a percentage of the bike-share program."

Brumfield said there is no timeline for the re-launch of the e-scooters. She also noted that at this time the future of the program is not in jeopardy due to the rapid rate of bike destruction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a 7-part series of stories dedicated to the Northern Nevada Business Weekly’s content focus for October-November — the business of Travel & Tourism.

• Go here to read part one: What’s new for the 2018-19 ski season at Reno-Tahoe’s downhill resorts?

• Go here to read part two: Patagonia, REI, others form Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition to protect public lands, improve growing outdoor recreation industry

• Go here to read part three: Remote Rubies: Nevada’s only heli-ski operation one of longest-running in U.S.

• Go here to read part five: The ‘bleisure’ effect: Conventions, marketing and more contribute to Reno-Tahoe tourism growth

Look for parts 6-7 in the coming days at http://www.nnbusinessview.com, or check out the full series in the NNBV’s next monthly edition, publishing Oct. 29.