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With ceremonial unlocking, LimeBike officially launches + LimeRide Saturday

See our Seattle Bike Share Guide for an updated list of bike share companies in Seattle, links to download their apps and a quick rundown on how it all works.

LimeBike Toby Sun (green and gray jacket) officially launched the service with a ceremonial unlocking.

LimeBike started rolling out its 500 bikes en masse Tuesday, a week after Spin launched its similar free-floating, app-based $1 bike share service.

“Seattle is really a city that, through our research, really excels among its peers in promoting green transportation and technology,” said LimeBike CEO Toby Sun during the company’s launching party at Westlake Park Thursday.

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The company has had a couple bikes floating around since July 17, but started rolling them out in serious numbers Tuesday. They had 360 bikes on the streets Wednesday, and Sun said those bikes saw 1,000 rides in just 24 hours.

All 500 LimeBikes will be on the streets by the end of the day Thursday, staff said. This will bring Seattle’s total number of bike share bikes to 1,000. That’s the size of Portland’s Biketown system and double the size of Pronto. LimeBike plans to keep up with the bike increases allowed under the city’s pilot permit rules, staff said Thursday. So Spin and LimeBike could go to 1,000 bikes each August 7.

People who sign up for LimeBike before Sunday will get a handful of free rides to get them started.

The company is also hosting an event this weekend called LimeRide (as advertised on Seattle Bike Blog). LimeRide starts at Gas Works Park at noon, and is something of a scavenger hunt around Fremont, ending at Fremont Brewing. They will be giving out a bunch of free rides (including a year of free rides (!) to the winner).

Spin has also announced a weekend event spanning Saturday and Sunday they are calling SpinHunt. It’s a bit looser than LimeRide and spans downtown and Fremont. Basically, if you post selfies at various landmarks with the hashtag #spinhunt, you’ll get $1 ride credit for each spot.

So basically, you should clear your schedule this weekend and just spend the whole thing biking bike share bikes around Seattle.

Yours truly and my amazing spouse Kelli about to bike some LimeBikes back to the CD.

Like Spin, LimeBike will be light on rebalancing at first. They want to see where the bikes go on their own as people use them, data they will use to inform future rebalancing work. Staff said they are already seeing a “river” of biking stretching from Fremont, through downtown and into Sodo.

That Sodo piece is perhaps the biggest surprise, since the bike lanes (or lackthereof) in Sodo are terrible. But there are a lot of jobs there, and people gotta get to work. It’s flat, and bike share is cheap and convenient. Just this piece of data should already be giving bike advocates and SDOT staff insight into an area of the city that is often overlooked (or worse) for bike lane improvements.

LimeBike’s bikes operate similarly to Spin’s, but have some key differences in build.

“We specially designed a bike for the Seattle market,” said Sun during the opening ceremony. “The gear ratio is very low so you can climb the hills,” and the bikes have drum and roller brakes “for extra braking power.” LimeBikes also have both front and rear lights that turn on automatically when you ride.

These elements definitely give their bikes an advantage over Spin, especially if going up or down steep inclines. The lowest gear even feels lower than Pronto, which had very low gears for a bike share bike. I rode up Capitol Hill without needing to stand like I needed to on a Spin bike. On flat ground, these differences have less of an impact.

As we reported Tuesday, Spin has redesigned their bike ahead of the next expansion August 7. Their new bike will have a lower low gear, better brakes and an improved lighting system that includes auto-on front and rear lights, among other changes. The company will also be retrofitting their current fleet over time.

But there is one key complaint about the LimeBikes: The seat posts don’t go high enough. I am 5’9″, and putting the seat all the way up when I ride is just about perfect for me. People taller than me may not be very comfortable and may need to stand for hills. I asked staff at the opening about this, and they are aware of the issue.

On the other hand, it’s very hard to build a one-size-fits-all bicycle. Average US adult height according to the CDC (PDF) is about 5’9″ for men and 5’4″ for women. Taller people had similar complaints when riding Pronto bikes, though I only put those seat posts about 4/5 of the way up when riding.

Like Spin, LimeBike is a very young company. And Seattle is by far their biggest market yet. So there are going to be bugs to fix and lessons to learn.

It has been fascinating to bike around town this past week and a half and see so many people biking the new bikes around town. On a trip yesterday from the CD to Ballard and back, I lost count of how many people I saw biking Spin and LimeBike bikes. They are already becoming part of the fabric of our city’s transportation system.

The LimeBike iPhone app also requires iOS 10, which means people still rocking an iPhone 4s or older can’t install it (the Spin app works on iOS 8 or later). About one in seven iPhone users are still using an iOS version older than 10, according to Apple.

People have also voiced concern about the location permissions for their app. When you first open it, users (at least iOS) are prompted to give the LimeBike app permission to see your location “always” instead of “while using the app” like Spin. LimeBike staff said this is to help them fulfill the city’s data sharing rules, which require companies to provide SDOT with anonymized ride routing data so the city can better learn where people are biking. So the app needs to be able to use your phone’s GPS for the duration of your trip.

The result is a very cool and accurate map of your ride, which they also share with you (the squiggle is me biking around the parking lot to make a stop at Bartell’s):

But the permission request seems to creep some people out, and the company is looking at “different ways of executing to meet the requirements,” said LimeBike’s Gabriel Scheer. Or at least better ways to explain to users why they need the permission. But for now, they need the background location tracking to report the data the city requires, they say. If you prefer, the app still works if you go into your phone’s privacy -> location settings and set it to “while using the app.” They just might not get all the ride data from your trip.

Have you tried LimeBike yet? How did it go?

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28 responses to “With ceremonial unlocking, LimeBike officially launches + LimeRide Saturday”

  1. ronp

    I bike commute every day and never am in a situation of needing bike share but am amazed at how well it seems to be working.

    I am in Australia at the moment– how many share riders are helmet-less? We really need to get rid of that requirement for adults. Is there a new informal non-enforcement non-rule — cops ignoring helmet law? Seems like I am seeing more non-share bike riders without helmets lately as well.

    Build those protected bike lanes now!

    1. NickS

      @ronp: “how many share riders are helmet-less?” All of them that I’ve seen. I have yet to see a single person wearing a helmet on a Spin or Limebike. Even the photo of the author with his wife “about to bike some LimeBikes back to the CD” shows a conspicuous lack of helmets. ;) I know, they may be out of frame.

      I personally don’t like having rules on the books that are generally not enforced. Because guess what — they tend to be enforced disproportionately against certain groups – youth, ethnic minorities, homeless, etc. For an example, see http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/seattle-police-are-writing-fewer-jaywalking-tickets-but-high-rate-still-issued-to-black-pedestrians/.

      I hope that the adult helmet rule is eliminated. I’ll continue to use a helmet on my own bike, but I’d like the option of legally taking short, low speed bike share without a helmet in the urban core. The only risk I see is that it de-normalizes helmet wearing, and you have to be willing to be considered a giant nerd to wear a helmet. Like wearing any protection while skateboarding when I was a kid, or before wearing a helmet on ski slopes became the new normal.

  2. I am going to hit all 15 spots on saturday with #spinhunt and go after that 500 dollar amazon gift card.

  3. Steve

    They better figure out how to meet those reporting requirements without the ‘always’ setting.

    iOS 11, due out in September, allows users to set any app to ‘only while in use’ for locations, regardless of what the app developer would prefer. Likely in response to Uber’s abuse of the ‘always’ setting.

    1. Southeasterner

      “They better figure out how to meet those reporting requirements without the ‘always’ setting.”

      Why? As long as your phone is on, your phone company is already gathering your location information, aggregating it, and selling it to agencies like SDOT for traffic analysis purposes or Starbucks to understand your travel patterns.

      As a tax payer wouldn’t you rather the government get that data for free, rather than pay for it? Although you could make the argument that your phone company offsets some of your monthly costs by selling your information to various agencies that you support through taxes…maybe a wash at the end of the day.

      1. Michael

        Because they won’t be able to force iPhone users to select “always” in the next iOS.

  4. Fish

    I’ve ridden both and the Limebike was a far more comfortable ride with the 8 gears. It’ll be interesting to see how both end up differentiating itself over time. I can’t imagine using the Spinbike, in its current form, on anything that’s not flat. What I’ve been most pleased with in general is how many bikes I’ve seen either around my condo in Magnolia/Interbay, one of the least dense neighborhoods in the city, and around my office in Fremont. It goes without saying that there was a huge void to be filled in neighborhoods like these with very lousy transit options. I’ve already used both of these more than I ever used Pronto. Considering that I probably won’t be alive when this city finally builds some type of light rail between Ballard and the U-district, I think all of these bike share programs will be tremendously successful if there is continuous availability along the Burke.

    1. good points. Spin has come out with the second style of bike, and it is pretty cool.

  5. Merlin

    The low seat on the Lime is a deal breaker for me, more than undoing the advantage provided by the low gears. I’m the same height as Tom, 5’9″, but I’m all legs and would need several inches more seat height to be comfortable. And I didn’t max out the seat on Pronto – or Spin – so it can’t be that hard to figure out. It’s a surprising mistake for a company that says it designed its bikes specifically for Seattle.

    1. Michael

      Yeah, I tried out a LimeBike yesterday for the first time but I had to give up after 0.12 miles. It was destroying me knees unless i stood the entire time, even with the seat all the way up.

      I’m 6′ 4″ and usually ride bikes with around a 60cm frame size.

  6. Adam

    I am 6′ so the LimeBike seat is a bit short for me, but workable. Other than that, I loved the LimeBike and preferred everything about it over Spin (although Spin is just fine). The seats on Pronto and Spin worked well for me if they were fully extended, so if LimeBike can make that minor adjustment it will be perfect!

    I’ve been wearing a helmet most of the time, keep my old Pronto helmet at the office for days when I don’t ride in.

    As someone who works in SODO, the amount of bikes down here isn’t surprising, just further demonstrates that we need safe and connected infrastructure – including Lander.

  7. It really is hard to make a bike that fits everyone… even if you make all the “contact points” adjustable over a large range it’s hard to make a bike that rides well at all the various extremes. I wonder if Lime Bikes ride better for shorter people than other bikes…

    This could plausibly be a reason for multiple bike-share companies to stick around in one city: differences between the bikes that make them work for different riders. Maybe Lime Bike will become the app of choice for short people… and maybe some other company could roll out bikes with a rider-height sweet-spot a little over 6′, with longer cranks for longer legs, that generally feel nice for taller and/or heavier riders. Similarly, if a company comes up with a way to get e-bikes going, there would probably be a trade-off (higher prices, need to dock)… and people’s preferences would vary naturally. It could be a good thing (as it often is with private businesses) that not everything works for everyone.

    1. William

      “It really is hard to make a bike that fits everyone” – This is only true to a point. It is not hard to make a utility urban bicycle that works adequately for >90% of the adult population for the purposes of slow city transportation. They are available in bike share systems throughout the world and even the much maligned Pronto system got this right (except for the lack of a basket). It is great that we now have free market bike-share in which companies will either be nimble enough to correct mistakes or lose out to competitors. However, it is baffling that the two companies we have so far have each started out with pretty elementary mistakes – poorly configured gears or the wrong range of seat heights. Maybe the roll out was too quick to allow for even minimal testing but any competent bike store employee could spec these characteristics without even that.

    2. Spin has a easily adjustible seat latch. I’m 5’7 and it worked for me.

      1. William

        Spin’s problem is the gears are inadequate for hills. Lime Bikes’ problem is the seat hight that doesn’t work for anyone taller than about 5’8″

  8. I was the very first guest at their Official Unlocking this morning! The staff setting thing up were busy but friendly and accommodating. I rode one away to my work on 3rd – with a free helmet they gave me. The helmet is actually pretty well made. It is lightweight and looks very nice, a whole lot better than the Pronto helmet. Being short at 5″5′, I had no issue with saddle height limitation, either.

    I agree with those who say the LimeBike bike is much nicer than the Spin one. I realize that Spin are upgrading their bikes for the expansion, but for now, I will always choose LimeBike over Spin when I can.

  9. Lynne

    I’m 5’5″ and I need about another inch of seat post. LimeBike already knows. It’s a much more solid bike than Spin. The gearing is loooow. But I’m ok with that.

    1. daihard

      You must be all legs! I’m the same height and had no trouble adjusting the saddle to fit me.

  10. VBikes kiosk-less service recently started here in Dallas. I’ve never seen more cyclists in the city before – being able to pick up and drop off anywhere attracts a whole new market. On the downside, we have a lack of bike infrastructure so I see a lot of novice riders on the sidewalk or doing dangerous things in traffic lanes. On the upside, hopefully this new biking market will create a more vocal biking community which leads to more bike lanes.

    1. Me to, i hope and think it will take off

  11. Ian Dotson

    “LimeBike staff said this is to help them fulfill the city’s data sharing rules”

    Spin is, one assumes, fulfilling these rules as well, yet their iOS app does not request access to background location.

    1. By using a modern smartphone, one already shares a lot of information with the OS and /or OS manufacturers. Adding LimeBike to that list of groups that have my location data won’t bother me at all.

  12. Rebecca Roush

    I rode both this morning from 85th and Greenwood to Union Station in the ID. Spin was closest to my house, so I rode it to a Lime bike in Ballard. There was a present waiting in the Lime bike basket – a bag of dog shit. So Ballard!
    Rode Lime across the Ballard Bridge to the entrance of Myrtle Edwards, and then rode another Spin into the ID.
    Both need higher seat posts for longer legs. I’ve got bruises on my chin from my knees hitting it.
    Lime’s low gear was helpful.
    Spin’s higher seat post was helpful.
    Both are a bit like riding a tank.
    I’m glad I rode that far, but in general will use it for short trips.
    I LOVED how convenient it was; using one to get to the other.

  13. JTinWS

    Got my first ride on Lime last night to an evening meeting at UW. Amazing how much better it is for last-mile or even last half-mile connections than Pronto was. Pronto’s low station density (and poor placement around UW) meant it usually only got me halfway to my destination, still leaving a long walk. I suppose the risk with Lime and Spin is that they might be less available at common _starting points_ like the Husky Stadium Parking Lot Link Station. On the other hand, if those are super popular, they can accommodate even more parked at them than Pronto did, because any dock had a max capacity. I’ll be curious if bike density is enough to keep up — my baseline hope is that it’ll be enough to frequently (~70% of time) make bikeshare a nice trip accelerator but not enough to be a >95% reliable trip component that you can count on to make it to events on time.

    I’m 5’11” and spent a long time before my first ride trying to figure out how to raise the seatpost, even opening their help page and FAQ, before reaching a tentative conclusion that either it or my brain was broken, and just tolerating it at a low height. I tried again after retrieving it for ride my back, to discover the adjuster wasn’t broken — that weirdly low height was just the actual maximum! It is so so so much lower than the max height on Pronto or Capital Bikeshare. Very strange. I’ll go out of my way to look for Spin Bikes in future till they raise the height. My knees were surprisingly achey after doing the 15-minute ride bent at nearly 90 degrees.

    1. A Land

      I am also 5’11” and I did EXACTLY what you did when I tried Lime for the first time. No way I could ride the bike with the seat as low as it is and just wasted depositing $10 ahead of time because I assumed it would actually have a seat that could be adjusted properly. Big bummer considering the extra gears the bike offers.

  14. R

    Well Spin’s app won’t install in my dated but fully functional Android phone. Guess LimeBike is my backup plan now (full time bike commuter with an employer that expects be to show up for shift on time).

  15. Betsy

    Bike on southbound sidewalk parked and blocking sidewalk.mid span south of bridge

  16. […] Ride summary and payment of a LimeBike. Image via Seattle Bike Blog. […]

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