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 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.
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.
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?