Reno welcomes sharable ‘Lime’ bikes; South Tahoe struggles with scooters
RENO, Nev. — It’s been over a month since Reno-Sparks welcomed a dockless bike sharing program to its streets, and from all indications, the influx of 1,000 lime green cruisers to Washoe County seems to be going well.
“Ridership has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Aaron Brukman, Reno operations manager for LimeBike — now called “Lime” due to the company’s transition into electric-powered scooters in other markets.
On a single Saturday this June, Lime tallied 1,700 rides throughout Reno-Sparks, said Brukman.
Driving around, it’s common to see the bikes in use. For $1 per 30 minutes, anyone with a cellphone can unlock and ride, ultimately leaving the bike wherever the trip ends.
Lime has a team of employees working 10 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the bikes are properly distributed throughout the region, including on the University of Nevada, Reno campus and Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
Though there have been some instances of bikes intentionally put in weird locations — including atop the archway of the Virginia Street Bridge in Downtown Reno — the program seems to generally be well-received.
“There is still quite a learning curve for users in terms of appropriate parking, bike safety and bike etiquette,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said. “We’re committed to continuing to help folks through that learning curve with our partner, Lime.”
Schieve said the community can expect a report from Lime summarizing the first month of ridership data soon.
“We’re told that more than 12,000 people have already enjoyed Lime in Reno,” added Schieve.
Members of the business community have noticed the benefits of the increased bike presence, especially in the concentrated downtown area.
“We have been really happy with this ‘green’ guest in the City of Reno, (with) their bright color, healthy environmental impacts and the connectivity they bring to the downtown,” said Britton Griffith, president of the Riverwalk Merchants Association, in an email. “We are pleased to see both residents and tourists rent one to go from a restaurant to a bar; a resident to take a faster route to the movie theater and even employees of the downtown area to hop over to a meeting.”
Lime has enjoyed considerable growth since it was founded in January 2017.
The San Mateo-based company launched at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in June 2017 with 125 bikes. The next month, it expanded to the cities of Key Biscayne, Florida; South Bend, Indiana; Seattle; and locally, in South Lake Tahoe.
Today, the company is in 60 different cities and college campuses in the U.S. and Europe.
In February, the company announced it raised another $70 million, bringing the total amount of funding raised by Lime to $132 million. The company is now valued at $260 million.
“With this new funding and set of partnerships, we are officially shifting gears from being a bikeshare company to a smart mobility solution provider,” said Lime CEO and co-founder Toby Sun in a press release.
The funds will be used to expand operations, support research and enhancements of the fleet, and increase the size of deployments.
In March, Lime — along with fellow mobility companies Bird and Spin — deployed its electric scooters, Lime-S, in San Francisco without express permission from the city.
In response to the scooters being used on the sidewalks and left toppled over in public places, the city ordered the companies to remove the scooters while they established a permitting process.
Applying companies will know by the end of June who qualifies to operate in San Francisco under the new pilot program.
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE STRUGGLES
Meanwhile, Lime brought 250 of its electric scooters to South Lake Tahoe in June. The fleet joined 250 LimeBikes already deployed in the community for the second year.
From a law enforcement standpoint, the arrival of the e-scooters has been complicated.
“It’s both a public safety concern and a compliance with the law concern,” said South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Brian Uhler.
Under California law, motorized scooters cannot be operated without a drivers license, helmets are required for all-ages, there is no riding on sidewalks (though bike paths are allowed), and only one person is allowed per scooter. Riders are also required to obey all traffic laws and cannot operate a scooter under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Take a quick drive down U.S. 50 in South Lake Tahoe, and it’s not difficult to see almost every single one of those rules being broken.
“The simple reality is that most people who come to visit Tahoe are not traveling with their bicycle helmet. At any given time there are probably 100 people riding around town without a helmet or two people on the scooter,” said Uhler. “I have limited police resources to address this. We will enforce violations that are egregious, but we can’t cite them all.”
And while Lime does require new users to go through a safety tutorial in the app outlining the laws prior to riding for the first time, that hasn’t stopped people from riding around without helmets and booking rides for underage users (Lime says you must be 18 or older to ride).
“Each rider can only unlock one scooter at a time, so that means that the rider at the very least needs to have a smartphone and a credit card,” said Stefanie Farradet, Lime operations manager in South Lake Tahoe.
Farradet noted that users can also request a helmet through the app for free, and the company will send one to their home address.
“We have so many sports stores and bicycle rental shops where people can buy helmets, too,” said Farradet. “We are encouraging people to wear helmets.”
On June 12, California Highway Patrol located an 18-year-old female that had crashed on Emerald Bay Road on a Lime-S. She sustained “moderate injuries” and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to a Facebook post by the agency.
“There are certainly a lot of people having fun on them out there. There’s no doubt there,” added Uhler. “But it’s whether or not they are following the law while doing it.”
PBS Reno, formerly known as KNPB Public Television, has served Northern/Central Nevada and Northeastern California since 1983.