People in Seattle have taken one million Lime bike share trips in about 11 months, the company announced Monday.
This astounding number of rides comes from just one of three companies currently operating in the city. And because the company launched initially with only 500 bikes, gradually scaling up to 4,000 around the New Year, they will likely hit the next million even quicker.
These bike share services have significantly changed transportation in Seattle in a very short period of time. There are few urban transportation advancements in modern history that have had such a big impact so quickly. Lime essentially went from an idea to 1 million Seattle rides in a year and a half. That’s more trips than the total number of bikes crossing the Fremont Bridge, the city’s busiest bike route pinch point. And they’re just getting started.
SDOT is in the process of revamping its bike share permit scheme to update the pilot permit that went into effect July 2017. That pilot permit became a model for cities across the nation, helping to lead a new bike share movement. Seattle should be proud of this success. We should be celebrating.
We’re just seeing the beginning of e-assist bike share with Jump already itching to start operating. ofo says they are also planning to add e-asisst bikes to their fleet in late summer. In other cities, shared electric kick scooters are all the rage, though they are not yet allowed in Seattle and it isn’t clear if city leaders are interested in them. Major investments continue to pour into these companies, and it’s hard to know where it goes from here. But Seattle is well positioned to continue leading.
And just like that, less than 12 months since they first rolled into town, Seattleites have taken more than one million carbon-free rides on Lime smart pedal and e-assist bikes.
The Emerald City was the first major US market to embrace dock-free bike sharing technology in the summer of 2017. Now, it’s become the first city in North America to reach the industry’s two-comma milestone, thanks in large part to its record-breaking fleet of Lime-E electric assist bikes.
“This is a great accomplishment for the city of Seattle,” said Operations Manager Sam Morando. “Not only does it demonstrate the need for smart mobility vehicles here, but it validates the city’s robust efforts to integrate dock-free services like Lime into Seattle’s overall transportation network.”
But the rides alone aren’t the only reason to celebrate.
By pedaling the equivalent of 30 laps around the earth, residents and visitors to Seattle have also helped offset more than 650,000 lbs of CO2. That means cleaner air and less congestion in a city that spends, on average, around 55 hrs/year stuck in traffic.
The team at Lime couldn’t be more excited about all that we’ve achieved together here in Seattle, and we’re looking forward to many millions of more rides to come!
It’s undeniably good for the city, but we should take Lime’s information on carbon offsets with a huge grain of salt. There’s not any way to know exactly how many trips would have been made by walking, or on a bus that’s running anyway, etc. Plus Limebikes get redistributed by van.
Anecdotally, some of the LimeBike trips I’ve taken would have previously been done on the bus. But others have indeed replaced car trips, including “rideshare” trips on Uber or Lyft.
Of course, bike trips replacing bus trips is not necessarily a bad thing either. If people on bikes mean less overcrowding on the bus, that’s good for everybody.
So, will they be able to make a profit. As good as this figure sounds – and I am personally excited – it still is only roughly one ride per bike per day.
Agree with Ryan about CO2 offsets are not accurate as all my LimeBike trips offset walking.
On another aspect of the station-less bike share, it would be helpful if suburban cities would embrace these programs as there are always going to be riders who will use these bikes outside of the city limits. Right now the bikes left in Eastside cities are seen as a nuisance when they could be seen as a transportation benefit.
I want to say that it’s great having you back with the regular bike updates. Hope your family is doing well.
Does anybody know if the data reported by the bike share companies to the city is publicly available? I’d love to crunch some of that data.
No, they get around that by giving the raw data to some UW team who then aggregates it for the City. If they gave the raw data to SDOT, then it would be publicly available to anyone (government data), and the bike share companies want to keep it mostly under wraps. To sell off and make money, I presume.
Monetizing data may well be a big part of the story. But don’t underestimate the privacy concerns either. The operators very much do not want to be on the media front page tomorrow with stories about how we now can spy on all the riders through the public data.
Even with user id’s stripped out, start/end point locations of individual trips can reveal individual user’s travel patterns, particularly when there is only person on a particular block who’s a regular bikeshare user. With enough precision in the data, you could even using parking patterns to identify trips by individual users (for example, a particular person who likes to park at a particular exact spot, day after day).
That said, I do dislike the fact that the only analysis anybody is allowed to do on the data is analysis chosen by a particular team of UW researchers. One, it creates a potential for conflict of interest – will they be willing to publish a paper if the result makes the bikeshare industry look bad, knowing that they might get their data feed cut off as punishment (or, does the contract allowing access to the data allow the company to outright censor the results)? Two, there are lots of useful pieces of information that aren’t in the UW researcher’s summary report? For instance, how often do bikes get ridden after getting deposited in neighboring cities, such as Bellevue or Redmond (the published heat map cuts off at the Seattle city limit boundary, so the public has no idea what the ridership is like beyond that limit)? Does the public have a preference for e-bikes vs. pedal bikes (as far as I can tell, the published reports treat all the bikes the same)? How much does ridership drop on rainy days vs. sunny days? Are there particular city blocks where a lot of bikes tend to end up, yet have no furniture zones to park a bike, so every bike parked on that block is technically in violation of the rules (maybe a sign that the block needs an on-street bike corral)? How many bikes are ending up in the middle of park trails (data that could be used to justify requiring Bellevue-style geofencing)? How many bikes are getting ridden to parks, but parked properly (next to a parking area or bike rack)?
In addition, the city should also have access to data describing the number of broken bikes on the city streets, so we can know how promptly the companies are removing them. If the data is locked up, rules like “broken bikes must be removed within 48 hours” become unenforceable.
You can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. We should take the Nissan Leaf’s “zero emissions” with a grain of salt because so much power in the US is coal-based. We should take Lime’s with a grain of salt because of the E in E-bike.
My belief is that any change of travel behavior towards a less impactful method is a gain. If that means trading in a Hummer for a Ford Explorer, I’m all for it.
Except the footprint of building a new electric car outweighs the footprint of using a gas guzzler for it’s lifetime. The rare materials needed to build vehicle batteries (and phone and computer batteries) are so ecologically cost-intensive to mine (usually using slave labor, too) that unless your current car is really at the end of it’s life, you’re actually putting yourself further in carbon debt by switching to the “green” choice. (Take this article that goes over how you would have to use your smartphone for 10 years before you even broke even on the carbon footprint of manufacturing the phone in the first place: https://www.fastcodesign.com/90165365/smartphones-are-wrecking-the-planet-faster-than-anyone-expected )
I’m not claiming that people should dump their Priuses en mass and move to Leafs. I’m saying that any move toward a less impactful behavior is beneficial. Yes, everything has associated costs. And yes, we should consider the end-to-end impact of anything we consume.
You make claims about slave labor but don’t provide any way to compare the ecological impact of producing an internal combustion car to those that are battery driven. And I’ll note the irony that the Fast Company article goes on about how the servers that smartphones use are also destroying the planet. Well guess what? The servers that the Fast Company article uses are the same used by your smart phone. Not to mention this blog.
For the record, my personal cell phone is an iPhone 5s (5 years old) and when I drive, it’s in a 2000 Jetta. Usually I ride my 1993 Jamis Quest bicycle to work.
This blog’s servers are powered by bicycle generator. Please stop reading so many posts, everyone. My legs are getting tired.
Not true, electric cars are much better than SUVs. This is a myth that needs to die (and it doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for walking/biking/transit as better solution for cities!):
“Over their lifetime, battery electric vehicles produce far less global warming pollution than their gasoline counterparts—and they’re getting cleaner. ” https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life-cycle-ev-emissions#.W0PuaH5G2Rs
I think a lot depends on how often the car gets driven. The more the car is driven, the more important the tailpipe emissions becomes, relative to the car’s manufacture and disposal.
For a car that is on the road all day, going electric can make a big difference. On the other hand, for someone that walks to work and only uses a car for occasional weekend trips, it is probably greener to rent or ride Lyft/Uber – even if the trip ends up being in a gas car – than to buy a new electric car that just sits there 9 days out of 10, without getting driven. The reason is that in the latter case, the saved emissions out the tailpipe will never outweigh the emissions from manufacturing the car in a reasonable amount of time.
I feel like 3 is already a good number of bike share companies. Three provides for competition and specialization, but more than that will provide diminishing returns. Meanwhile, there will be more bike clutter without it being easier to find one. No one wants to look at more than one app, let alone four
There were a ton of bikeshare bikes from all three companies parked next to Gas Works Park during the 4th of July fireworks, which is a sign that the service is, indeed, being well-used.
Interesting question: what percent of the bikes that got ridden to Gas Works Park for the fireworks got ridden back? On the one hand, people might be less willing to ride a bike in the dark than daytime. On the other hand, with bus service very skeletal and Uber/Lyft facing the combination of long waits, bad traffic, and high surge pricing, that pretty leaves riding a bike and walking as the only two options left.
I rode a Lime-E bike home from Gasworks to the CD. It was perfect. Many of the roads around Lake Union were closed to car traffic, so I was free to ride, with plenty of space. The e-assist got me up 10th Ave no problem. Walking that far was not an option. Waiting for delayed and full bus service would have been cumbersome. Riding my own bike and risking a lack of bike parking, theft, tampering, or even having to ride up 10th Ave with no e-assist would have been daunting. To me, freedom of mobility means having mobility options. Having free floating bike share just adds to the pack. If I lived in a car-only neighborhood and had to drive everywhere, and literally couldn’t go anywhere without a vehicle, I would feel so…trapped.
I dont use bike share, but I use my own bike for nearly all of my transportation needs. Riding all over this city, I see the bike share bikes being used in big way. Especially in the places with the worst existing bike infrastructure. It cost the city nothing. Contrast that with how much is spent on the streetcar project and the Bertha tunnel.
The occasional clueless rider or annoyingly parked Lime bike… is a really minor annoyance. Lyft and everybody else using the bike lane as a parking zone is a far bigger problem. Personally I would like to send a big fat thank you to all the bike share companies, because I see a lot of people out there having fun on them that would otherwise be driving cars.
1,000,000 rides off 500 bikes in 11 months is about 6 rides a day. It’s much less than that when you factor in the “gradually scaling up to 4,000 around the New Year”. These are not sustainable numbers. Also the “Seattleites have taken more than one million carbon-free rides on Lime smart pedal and e-assist bikes.” isn’t exactly true. Limebike is constantly making van trips that previously didn’t exist in this city to move their bikes around. This model is in no way sustainable long term without a large public investment or selling ads on the bikes.
A lot of the sustainability of the business model will depend on reducing the number of van trips, which are expensive, given the cost of labor.
For instance, if the e-bike batteries could last longer, or people had a stronger incentive to leave a bike in a visible place where it is likely to get used by someone else (perhaps a discount if someone else rides the same bike you left within a certain period of time), the need for van trips might decrease.
There are also a few areas, like sections of Discovery Park, where pedal bikes left there have a tendency to stay there a very long time if a van doesn’t pick them up, because people don’t want to ride them uphill. Parking in such areas could simply be banned, altogether, although that can get tricky. What happens if somebody rides down the hill to the lighthouse, discovers that they can’t end the trip there, but they don’t have the physical strength to get the bike back up the hill, even by walking it?
I am not much of a cyclist though I do like the idea of the bike shares and plan to try one. But what about the lack of helmets?? Riding without a helmet is illegal and unsafe. How do these companies and their supporters respond to this major weakness in the model?
I notice there are NO responses to my question about helmets — I’d still like to hear some. I thought the bike community cared about safety.
That may be because this is off-topic. We have discussed helmets at length elsewhere, such as here: https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2017/09/01/missing-the-forest-for-the-bicycle-helmets/
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