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eBikes: Rethink your ride with Lime

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Once rideshare apps like Uber started taking off, many people wondered if they could apply that concept to other things.

One such company was Lime, a bike share company that began as LimeBike.

Customers could use an app to rent, unlock, and ride a bike, then be shed of it once they get where they were going.

The appeal was apparent: no initial outlay of cash for a bike, no maintenance costs, no need for a place to store the bike securely.

A pay-as-you-ride model made sense to a lot of people. Another aspect people enjoyed was the sustainability angle.

As our cities become more pedestrian and bike-friendly, we opt for transportation that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.

Lime bikes address that need nicely.

While the company originated in San Francisco, it now serves cities across the country and the world, from New York City to New Zealand.

Lime bikes offer convenience and fun to everybody, not just those who own fancy bicycles and those tight shorts.

What Is a Lime Bike?

Lime started as LimeBike, a bike share company that deals not in catching rides with other drivers but with renting a bicycle on an as-needed basis.

A Lime bike is a regular bicycle, an eight-speed two-wheeler, though Lime also offers the Lime eBike, an electric bike, and the Lime scooter, one of the many kinds of dockless electric scooters out there.

You find a bike, rent it, and ride it like you would ride your own bicycle.

Then, when you’re done, you don’t have to figure a way to get it back to your house.

The bikes, ebikes, and scooters get rented through a smartphone app, and it’s all straightforward, so you can focus on riding rather than figuring out how to get the process started.

Bike share systems are proliferating throughout the country, so if there’s not a Lime bike available in your area, there may be soon.

Groups like Bike Walk Tomkins in Ithaca, NY, work with local entities like a metropolitan area planning council to help make cities more bike-friendly, encouraging bike share programs to flourish.

On the other hand, in some markets, Lime has opted to pull bikes and ebikes in favor of scooters, which they did in San Mateo, Cal., much to the surprise and chagrin of local authorities.

So it’s a growing industry with some ups and downs.

Key App Features

Lime’s bike share smartphone app not only unlocks the bike so you can ride it, but it bills your bank account or card, and it can tell you where to find the nearest Lime bike.

Once the app is installed on your smartphone and you’ve allowed it to access your location information, the Lime app will show a map of your city, localized to you.

It will show icons where all available Lime bikes are currently located (you’ll also see available scooters, Lime pods, and even Lime e-mopeds where available.  

While Lime has a presence in hundreds of cities worldwide, not all cities have all of Lime’s available products.

For instance, while Lime scooters have dotted Tulsa, Okla.’s streets and bike lanes since 2018, Lime bikes are not part of the city’s fleet of Lime vehicles.

How Do I Reserve and Use a Bike?

One nice feature of the Lime app (especially on a busy night downtown in just about any city in North America) is the ability to reserve a bike.

You can’t make a reservation for next Saturday, but you can make a reservation to hold the bike long enough for you to get to it.

Again, during the week, you probably won’t need the feature, but on a busy Friday night, if you have trouble finding a bike within arm’s reach, you can find one on the map, reserve it, and get to it for a ride.

Reserving a Lime bike for a limited time is easy.

Users can find a Lime bike they want on the app’s map feature, then touch that bike’s icon to bring up the reservation banner.

Clicking “Reserve” and then “Start reservation” will hold the bike for 15 minutes.

If you change your mind, you can cancel the reservation, freeing the bike up for someone else to use.

Using a Lime bike is simple, as the smartphone app does most of the work for you.

  • Download the Lime app for iOS or Android.
  • Set up your account on the app, including providing some personal information and a credit card to pay for your rentals.
  • If you don’t have a Lime bike in front of you, you can find one by viewing the Lime map.
  • Once you’re at the bike, in the bottom right corner of the app’s home screen, tap “Scan.”
  • This brings up a QR code scanner, which you’ll use on the QR code to unlock the bike.
  • Ride (and have fun).
  • You can take the Lime bike back to the bike rack you started at or find any other available one at the end of the ride.
  • Lock the helmet up, too.
  • On the app, click “End Ride” and follow the instructions.

In most markets, the unlock fee runs about $1, and then customers will be billed something like $.15 per mile, though that rate fluctuates around the country.

Are Helmets Provided?

The short (frustrating) answer is that helmets are sometimes provided.

When they are, they’re threaded into the lock holding the bike securely to the bike rack.

However, not all Lime bikes have those helmets attached, and riding without one could be breaking the law, depending on where you are.

Currently, 22 states in the US have bike helmet laws, whether you’re using a bike share service or your own wheels, and more than 200 cities and towns have their statutes.

So if you find a Lime bike without a helmet, check out your local helmet laws before cruising around.

Some laws are age-restrictive, meaning many only apply to riders 16 and under, but that is not universal.

For example, several municipalities in the St. Louis area require bike helmets for every rider.

How to Ride a Lime Bike

You never forget how to ride a bike, so you should have no trouble riding a Lime bike if you’ve ridden it before.

We’ve gone over the process of renting the bike, and once you start your ride, you just ride the bike like you would any other.

It’s not electric, it’s not otherwise motorized, and you’ll even have a bike lane to use in many cities.

At the end of the ride, you can’t just leave the bike and walk away, as we’ve mentioned.

Instead, you’ll need to complete the ride via the Lime app.

Part of wrapping up your ride involves making sure you leave the bike in an authorized area.

You may see some areas designated in red on your app’s map.

These are spots where you may not leave a Lime bike or scooter.

This problem happens less with Lime bikes than scooters since you’ll need to lock the bike to a bike rack, and what are the chances you’ll find a random, non-Limie-affiliated bike rack in a no-parking area?

Still, be sure the map shows you leaving the bike in an acceptable spot.

Tips on Using the Lime Bike

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most fatal bicycle accidents happen between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, and 78 percent occur in urban settings.

This last stat is essential to Lime bike riders because the bikes are overwhelmingly found in city areas.

Riders should also remember that traffic laws apply to them just as they do to cars.

So while automobiles should take care when passing bicycles, cyclists need to give cars the same space they would if driving and adhere to traffic signals.

General bike safety tips, applicable to Lime bikes and any other bicycle, include:

1. Checking your brakes.

This is especially applicable to a rental bike.

You’ll be familiar with your own bike’s brakes, but there’s every possibility that you’re mounting a ride you’ve never seen before when climbing on a Lime bike.

Make sure the brakes work and are in good repair.

2. Using headlights.

Especially riding at dusk or later, a headlight will help you see the surface you’re traveling over more easily.

Lights will also increase other drivers’ chances of seeing you on a city street, no matter the time of day.

3. Wearing a helmet (that fits properly).

As mentioned, some states require bike helmets, and some Lime bikes don’t come with attached helmets.

In any case, a bike helmet saves lives.

In 2015, more than half of all bicyclists killed in accidents weren’t wearing a helmet.

4. Minimizing distractions.

Wearing headphones or earbuds diminishes your ability to hear and be aware of your surroundings.

If a car approaches you from behind, you’ll know it because you’ll hear it.

With headphones on, though, you lose that ability.

5. Riding safely.

If you must access your smartphone while riding, use a phone holder.

Keeping both hands on the handlebars sharply reduces the risk of an accident.

One-hand and no-hand riding are dangerous in their own ways.

One rough spot in the road can quickly wrest control of the bike from you.

6. Riding responsibly.

This responsibility applies in two ways: don’t go too fast, and don’t ride under the influence.

Regarding speed, most Lime bikes live in urban areas, so you may be riding around pedestrians, and you’ll definitely encounter cars.

Riding too fast reduces your ability to react safely.

7. Drinking and riding reduce that ability further.

A New York University School of Medicine study found that 15 percent of bicycle accidents involve alcohol use, and drunk riders have a higher mortality rate.

When you ride, you should have your cell phone, identification, and a credit card, as each of these can be quite useful in various crises that might arise.

If you plan to ride for a while, you might want to bring a water bottle.

Final Word

Lime bikes offer an environmentally friendly way to get around, and they offer that to everyone, even (perhaps especially) people who don’t own bikes.

As the bike share concept continues catching on, Lime bikes will continue popping up in more and more cities, offering affordable transportation to anyone with a smartphone.

Your first step involves downloading the Lime after that, at which point, the road is yours for the taking.

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