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Lime’s expanded discount program lets people pay in cash, unlock 5¢ bikes with a text

A nickel. In 2018, there is essentially nothing that costs a nickel.

But that’s all it costs for qualifying low-income users to unlock a Lime pedal bike under the company’s newly-expanded Lime Access program ($5 for 100 rides). And qualifying users (see #4 below) can also now pay in cash and unlock bikes using any mobile phone that can send text messages or make calls, allowing people who don’t have a bank account and smart phone with a data plan to use their bikes.

Qualifying users can also access Lime’s e-bikes at half price (50 cents to unlock plus 7 cents per minute). So a half hour e-bike ride would cost about the same as bus fare ($2.60).

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To get set up, the Lime Access webpage tells users to email [email protected] the following:

  1. Full Name
  2. Phone Number (this number should be for the phone you plan to use for LimeBike)
  3. Valid government-issued photo ID
  4. Proof of low income status (e.g. EBT card, discounted utility bill, or any other state or federally-run assistance program document). Seattle Bike Blog has confirmed that an ORCA Lift card will also work.

It will take Lime staff up to two days to get accounts verified and set up. Users will also need access to a printer if they don’t have a smart phone so they can print a unique barcode they can use to load money into their accounts at any ParNearMe location, including the 50 or so 7-Eleven and CVS stores in Seattle.

As ofo closes down Seattle operations and Spin pivots to scooters (which are not yet allowed in Seattle), Lime has emerged in recent weeks as the primary bike share company in town. That could change as the city’s revamped bike share permit rolls out in the coming months, allowing new companies to compete with Lime. But for now, Seattle’s a Lime town.

At 5 cents for a pedal bike ride, Lime is all but giving those rides away. They just want folks to register. Perhaps this will also help prevent people from cutting off or disabling the locks on the bikes, since they can just access them legitimately for so little money.

$1 per ride was already the most affordable way to get around town other than walking (and maybe riding your own bike, depending on your bike costs). But at 5 cents, there is no cheaper way to get around. In a town where costs only seem to rise, shared pedal bikes offer a rare and very needed reduction in costs. This is why we have argued that the city should be doing whatever it can to encourage companies to provide the lower-cost pedal bikes in addition to their electric options.

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5 responses to “Lime’s expanded discount program lets people pay in cash, unlock 5¢ bikes with a text”

  1. Bob

    This is really interesting.
    Are there many people that fall into the narrow band of possible users that:
    – Own a non-smart phone
    – Don’t have a bank account
    – Access to a printer
    – Willing to type in lots of numbers every time they need to access a bike
    – Aware of programs like Lime Access to begin with
    – Know how & willing to navigate the complex PayNearMe payment method
    – Have lots of free time to deal with all the extra hassle compared to the ease which a regular user sign up and recharge.

    Seems like much of this would require you have access to a computer & internet to even be aware of this low income benefit.

    I’m glad Lime is stepping up to assist the lower income communities of Seattle but this really feels like one of those moves to appease a certain demographic & absolve them of any further attempts to make cycling accessible for all.

    1. Apu

      You are correct that the method described here isn’t easy to use for homeless folks, especially the printer requirement. AFAIK they have been taking cash payments at their Fremont physical office for a while now, so hopefully they will be continuing to do that for this new low-income program as an alternative to the email+printer route.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      Seattle Public Library branches have computers and printers.

      And users who qualify but also have smart phones can use the app instead of texting, as the graphic notes. They can probably also use the barcode on their phone screen instead of paper.

  2. Morgan Scherer

    This is exciting! I would love to know if orca cards for disabled users also qualify for the discount. They are different than orca lift cards.

  3. asdf2

    I was all set to comment that low income Bellevue users are SOL because it’s all e-bikes, but saw that the discount extends there too, with 50% off.

    Agree that with smartphones becoming very cheap, the need for clumsy text based systems is very limited.

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