A trial ride for Worthington's first public-bike-sharing program has launched.
LimeBike, which debuted in the city May 19, is a bike-sharing company is based in California.
Since its inception in 2017, LimeBike has expanded into 15 states; Dublin's LimeBike program was launched in April.
Similar to automobile-ride-sharing companies, LimeBike functions through an app that uses GPS to track the bicycles.
Users can see locations of nearby bicycles and then can check in to a bike to unlock it and pay $1 for 30 minutes of riding.
However, LimeBike does not have docking stations to centralize the locations of the bikes, such as with Columbus' CoGo Bike Sharing Program. Instead, users lock the bikes with the app in their location when they are finished riding.
For that reason, LimeBike spokeswoman Emma Green said, the company is more city-friendly.
"We differ from a dock system, where it costs a lot of money to install the infrastructure to support the system," she said. "So our model allows us to be subsidy-free from the city but then charge per bike ride. And we're seeing that to be profitable in many of our markets."
Because of that difference, Worthington is paying nothing to LimeBike for a six-month trial period in the city. Worthington City Council in March voted to give City Manager Matt Greeson permission to initiate the trial.
Darren Hurley, director of the Worthington Parks and Recreation Department, said LimeBike has been discussed by the city's bicycle and pedestrian board for most of 2018.
Board members ultimately were convinced by the risk-free trial period, he said.
"It seemed like a good way to figure out if there was a demand and if it was something people would want," he said.
The program will begin with 50 bikes.
Kyle Bivenour, a Clintonville resident and LimeBike's operations manager for Columbus, is helping oversee the program in Worthington.
LimeBike would provide a "local operations team" to help the pilot program run smoothly, he said.
LimeBike employees would maintain the bikes and move them to more convenient locations when necessary, Bivenour said. They would track the bikes and do everything from moving them closer to racks to picking them up if they were left laying down, he said.
Bivenour said the absence of docking stations has been seen as a positive thus far.
"Operations have been running smooth," he said. "I think being on a dock-free model provides flexibility for our riders."
After the trial
When the six-month trial is complete, Hurley said, Worthington officials will determine whether it was successful. They then could use a bid process to "decide what's important to us" and allow competing bike-share companies to present their best offers, he said.
Hurley said the parks and recreation department and the bicycle and pedestrian board had been considering how to approach a bike-sharing service, but members of the board had been "leery" about most services because they would require city funding for their docking stations.
"It hadn't really grown all the way up to Worthington, and you have to invest in those stations in order to have the bikes," he said.
He said the city was "waiting and monitoring" those services when council members Rachael Dorothy and Bonnie Michael spoke to a LimeBike representative at a National League of Cities conference, which helped propel the bike-sharing conversation forward.
Hurley said now is the right time to begin the trial because city leaders are not sure if Worthington residents are interested in a bike-sharing program.
"It's a nice time to do a trial because it gives us some nice information and data with that process, as well," he said.
Hurley said the topic would be explored in greater detail during the bicycle and pedestrian board's master-planning process, which is expected to begin soon.
Any bike-sharing service that comes to Worthington would require a city-approved agreement, largely because of how often the bikes would be in the public right of way, he said.
If Worthington leaders were to choose LimeBike after the trial period, Hurley, Bivenour and Green all said no investment from the city would be required.
Green said the company is backed by "venture capital," so it is able to afford placing its own infrastructure without asking for money from cities.
"That allows us to get our feet on the ground as we move toward a sustainable model," she said.
Although LimeBike is expanding throughout the country, Bivenour said, central Ohio has been one of its targets lately.
Communities like Worthington and Dublin represent a great entry point for the company, he said.
"In general, Columbus has always been on the leading edge of transportation, of moving around the city in a better way," he said. "Worthington is part of a regional effort in central Ohio to bring smart mobility, and that's what LimeBike does."
If LimeBike works correctly, Bivenour said, it should have effects beyond just providing bicycles.
"We provide an affordable option for moving about the city, and our goal is to alleviate congestion and traffic in the cities we serve," he said.
For more information, go to limebike.com.