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Lime will shut down Seattle bike service at the end of 2019

Photo of a group of people watching as a man unlocks a limebike with a phone.
The ceremonial unlocking of the first LimeBike July 27, 2017 in Seattle.

Lime announced today that they will be pulling their e-bikes from Seattle streets December 31.

This follows a week and a half of rumors that the company was shutting down, rumors the company denied to both Seattle Bike Blog and The Urbanist. As recently as December 15, a company spokesperson told Seattle Bike Blog that Lime would remain in operation until at least March, around the time when the long-awaited scooter pilot is due to be rolled out.

But an email to users on Christmas Eve, Lime announced they would, indeed, be shutting down service, though they “remain very committed to working with the City of Seattle to create a robust mobility program in the Spring that includes a mix of free-floating scooters and improved bike options that are a priority to the City.”

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Lime was the last of the original three bike share companies to launch in Seattle in the summer of 2017. Spin, one of the other three original companies, has since switched to scooters and has stated in the past that they are interested in operating scooters in Seattle.

The loss of Lime comes just as Sound Transit is preparing a major multi-month service reduction on light rail service downtown as they work to connect the East Link tracks to the existing line. Bike share could help relieve pressure on the crunched downtown trains, so let’s hope JUMP sticks around.

More details from Lime:

As we head into the winter season, we have already reduced our e-bike operations based on demand. Given our current permit expires at the end of the year, we are removing our bike fleet by December 31. We remain very committed to working with the City of Seattle to create a robust mobility program in the Spring that includes a mix of free-floating scooters and improved bike options that are a priority to the City.

We understand that this will impact some of you. Our hope is to work with the City to create a strong multimodal micromobility system to serve the City long into the future.

We appreciate your role in making Seattle a great place for bikes and scooters, and look forward to seeing you in the spring!


Seattle Lime

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24 responses to “Lime will shut down Seattle bike service at the end of 2019”

  1. Greg

    To clarify, does this mean Uber’s Jump e-bikes are the only dockless bikes (bikes or e-bikes) left in Seattle? So no dockless bikes anymore, just e-bikes, and only Jump e-bikes? Or is there another company still active?

    1. Jesse Simpson

      Yes, though Lime also phased out regular bikes in Seattle this past March.

  2. Tom Lang

    By my count, we’re down to 1 bikeshare option, 0 carshare options, expected light rail disruptions through March, and potential bus reductions in the wake of I-976. Shit.

    1. Bruce Nourish

      There is still ZipCar, although it’s not something you can use for A->B transportation.

      Hell of a bust in this “new mobility” sector though.

      1. asdf2

        Uber and Lyft are still around. For all their faults, they do make it much easier for people that don’t own cars to get around, particularly when they need to venture into the suburbs with poor transit service. For those that work in the suburbs, the availability of Uber and Lyft on nights and weekends make it possible to live close enough to work to walk, without the need to keep a car in a garage that just sits idle most of the time.

        Many of the trips that used to be made with Car2Go or bikeshare, people have flocked to Uber and Lyft instead – if the price is going to similar either way, Uber/Lyft are generally more convenient.

        In order for bikeshare to be viable, the cost of riding a bike has to be significantly less than the cost of riding in an Uber car.

        Zipcar is also still around, but its locations are generally limited to Seattle’s densest neighborhoods. Even urban villages outside the city center, availability is very limited. For example, Fremont, Phinney Ridge, Green Lake, Roosevelt, Greenwood, and West Seattle Junction, have just one car each. Similar for Beacon Hill, Mt. Baker, and Columbia City. Northgate has two. Lake City has zero. Car2Go, in its heyday, served all of these neighborhoods and more with tons of cars, allowing a person without a car to actually *spontaneously* decide to rent one and drive it into the mountains, walking no further than a car owner would typically have to, if parked on the street. The cost for an all-day rental with both services was essentially the same, but for those that don’t live in downtown, SLU, or Capitol Hill, Car2Go was vastly more convenient.

      2. M.B.

        “For example, Fremont, Phinney Ridge, Green Lake, Roosevelt, Greenwood, and West Seattle Junction, have just one car each. ” This isn’t true. Many have 2 vehicles, some have multiple locations. I still really like Zipcar to rent a van to move things occasionally and it serves they purpose well.

      3. Tim

        Don’t forget: taxis are still a thing

      4. asdf2

        Taxis have terrible and unpredictable response times, especially if being picked up outside the city center.

        And, they’re also really expensive, especially for the types of trips I typically use Uber/Lyft for – 10-20 mile cruises down uncongested freeways at off-peak travel times. With taxis, a simple 20-minute drive can end up costing as much as $50 ($60 with tip). $60 for 20 minutes of labor, plus a half-gallon of gas is robbery.

      5. RossB

        Uber and Lyft are taxis. They just pay their workers less, and sidestep the regulations.

      6. asdf2

        Many of the old taxi regulations had more to do with protecting incumbents from competition than actually improving safety. For example, consider the cap on the number of vehicles. It leads to long waits during busy times, and no drivers available anywhere except downtown, the airport, or fancy hotels. And, the windfall, by and large, benefits the vehicle owners, rather than the drivers. During slow times, high mandatory prices lead to drivers cruising around empty, with no passengers.

  3. […] Despite earlier denials, Lime announced December 24th that it was closing down its bikeshare in Seattle and pulling all its bikes by […]

  4. Sounds like they figured out what the rest of us already knew, Seattle is not conducive to bike riding six months out of the year for the bulk of the populace, nor is it profitable. Proof is in the pudding.

    1. Kthemarsh

      I’ve always wondered how ice cream shops stay afloat in the winter.

      1. Bruce Nourish

        I single-handedly eat enough to keep them all in the black.

    2. Andres Salomon
      1. 1 million trips per year is what % of total trips all up that commuters make into Seattle each year?

      2. Ballard Biker

        1 million trips per year is what % of total trips all up that commuters make into Seattle each year?

        Much more than the percentage of transportation funding allotted towards cycling every year.

    3. RossB

      Ha — I saw this coming. Seattle is unique — it just isn’t like other cities. There is something about the hills, the rain, maybe the fish. Our failures are not due to mismanagement and ignoring the science. No, our failures are just due to bad luck and our own, special, unique set of problems.

      Absolutely ridiculous. Sorry, I don’t mean to ridicule your comment, but I’ve read so many similar ones, it is aggravating. Let’s do a quick review here:

      Most cities our size have successfully implemented docked bike shares. Docked bike shares have several advantages. From a user perspective, you have a reasonable assurance of knowing where to find a bike. If there isn’t one at the station next to you, there is one across the street.

      Which brings up another issue. If you look at the reports on bike shares, all the evidence points to the importance of bike dock density. The more docks you have, the more people will use the system. If you have to walk five blocks to get a bike, very few will use it. Similarly, the larger the coverage area, the more trips you get.

      So, what did Seattle do? We started with a pilot program that had very few docks, and a fairly small coverage area. It had results that you would expect: not especially good. Again, if you simply looked at the graphs and the charts (while ignoring all those things that make Seattle “unique”) you would get almost exactly as many riders as we did. So, the plan was to expand.

      But then we didn’t. Instead, a few private companies said they would launch a dockless system. Dockless has its advantages (for the user). You can just drop the bike off anywhere. Unfortunately, that makes it much harder for the company. It costs a lot more money to go chasing around everywhere picking up bikes, as opposed to going from dock to dock. It is also harder on the bikes. But the companies didn’t care that they were losing lots of money. They were mostly interested in data. They also figured they would charge more as competitors dropped out. Sure enough, all of this happened.

      Now they are transitioning to scooters. There is a novelty value in scooters, and many (incorrectly) feel like they are easier to use. They are fundamentally more dangerous, but if you don’t know how to ride a bike, a scooter seems easy. They are also (I’m guessing) cheaper and easier to throw in a truck. As long as income stratification creates a big underclass willing to drive around picking up bikes it won’t cost that much to shift to picking up scooters. If the scooters are cheap, then who knows, maybe they will stick around (although I wouldn’t bet on it).

      As is the fashion in Seattle, we ignore what other cities do, and then wonder why we fail. It wouldn’t be that hard to copy, say, Boston, in building a bike share system. Yes, it requires a little of a subsidy, but we would have a much better, much more affordable system.

      1. asdf2

        It won’t happen because generating enough dock density with a reasonable budget would require taking funds from the entire city and concentrating them in a few neighborhoods with the highest demand, leaving everyone else with nothing. The fact that these neighborhoods are predominantly white and relatively wealthy would cause the more progressive council members to cry foul.

        Even if money we’re infinite, I’m still not sure enough dock density would be possible as long as each and every dock has to be subjected to the Seattle Process, with every business owner on the block having veto power, and forget about it in residential neighborhoods. Even on the UW campus, the dock locations would be driven by where the UW thinks the docks best fit the landscape, rather than what’s most convenient for riders.

        Nor am I enthusiastic about the idea of diverting limited funds for bike lanes to pay for it. And, we’re still close enough to Pronto that any elected official would be comitting political suicide to propose it.

        More realistic is for the city to just focus on building more and better facilities to ride on, along with more and better places for bikes to park. The lockers at UW station are a step in the right direction.

  5. Jesus on his birthday!

    No inkling that Like is pulling bikes as “leverage” in scooter negotiations with the city? No comments on how deficient the Lime bikes were (can’t get up a hill, poor maintenance)? Also the pricing for Lime was dumb for short trips. Here’s hoping we get another e bike company in town. The scooters are going to be a windfall for the trial bar

  6. Steven Lorenza

    I hate to say, but our family generally uses lyft and rare taxi when we don’t drive our car. It was different before kids, and will be again after. Family fare on metro is the same as a Lyft ride for a fraction of the convenience. We’ll take our own bikes out in the summer, but not much in December.

    New mobility that works is just the old kind.

  7. AP

    It’s also notable that Lime was the only company operating in Bellevue. There are no bike shares there anymore. Uber doesn’t seem eager to expand Jump’s borders quickly.

    1. asdf2

      That’s not what I’m seeing in the Jump app, which seems to indicate that leaving a bike in certain designated places within Bellevue is allowed. (All designated places are either in downtown, next to Factoria Mall, or next to Crossroads Mall). Of course, to get the bike there, you’d have to ride it all the way across the 520 bridge. Back when it was cheaper, I did it once on a Lime bike, and it took about 40 minutes (from the U district), which translates to about $12 at current rates. That same $12 will (excluding tip) get you there in a shared ride Uber or Lyft car, in what will probably be less time.

  8. Larry

    Lime was disorganized due to its rapid growth and the car share program was terribly mismanaged, both of which contributed a tremendous financial loss. They failed to hold drivers accountable for parking tickets, tows and tolls, so drivers continued to park them in restricted zones. The “managers” were inexperienced, overworked and laughed at logical solutions offered by contracted workers. It also didn’t help that they ignored a warning, originally from the SPD of the previous year’s spike in stolen carshare vehicles that coincidentally occured around the same time as a religious holiday. They tried to create a “team work” environment, but when the team was lead by managers born during the tail-end of the entitled millennial generation it felt more like high school and caused the crew to feel unappreciated and discouraged.

    Lime pulled their bikes from Seattle because the permit to operate expired on December 31st. If the City of Seattle doesn’t follow through with the scooter pilot, it won’t be worth it for Lime to pay the permit fee. I’ll be surprised if they even come back to the State of Washington if Seattle doesn’t allow scooters.

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