Early reviews suggest that central Ohio's newest bicycle-sharing service, Lime, has been a success in the early days of its trial periods in a few communities.
Lime, known as LimeBike until recently, is a bike-, e-bike- and e-scooter-sharing service based in California that functions through the Lime app, which tracks the equipment through GPS. 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.
Unlike similar systems, Lime bikes do not use docks. Instead, they can be left anywhere and are locked and unlocked by the app. The bikes' positions are tracked by Lime's local operations team and can be moved out of the public right of way or in other less-than-desirable areas.
Lime has had bikes in Dublin and Worthington since May and in Columbus since June.
Kyle Bivenour, a Clintonville resident and Lime's operations manager for Columbus, said usage in central Ohio has been "super encouraging."
"In general, throughout central Ohio, ridership is really starting to pick up," he said. "I think people are really starting to get a feel for how the program works and are really appreciating the convenience of the dock-free system and how that can be part of their daily commute or those shorter trips that they're now doing on a bike instead of getting in their vehicle."
Though local leaders can see surface-level data, Bivenour said, Lime doesn't share figures and can't "get into too many specifics" about riders. But trends are "fairly consistent" without big differences between the communities, he said.
Dublin was the first central Ohio community to begin its trial period with Lime, with a May 5 launch that was part of a larger initiative to provide more mobility options to residents, according to city spokeswoman Lindsay Weisenauer.
Weisenauer said the city had 128 Lime bikes as of June 27.
"It is a pilot program, but we plan to have them for the foreseeable future," she said.
As of June 22, 847 riders have used Lime in Dublin, for a total of 1,294 rides and 1,511 miles, Weisenauer said. The rides occurred all over the city, she said.
Scott Dring, executive director of the Dublin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said managers of hotels where Lime bikes have been distributed have told him customers love them and use them to ride on city trails and in downtown Dublin.
The city has received mostly positive feedback, Weisenauer said. Many people have taken photos of their bike rides and posted them on social media, including the city's Facebook page, she said.
Weisenauer said she has received two phone calls about bikes that were left in undesired locations -- such as in front of a restaurant or in a park -- and the Dublin Police Department has had a handful of calls.
She said the city already has a memorandum of understanding with Lime that permits the company to use public right of way, and either party can end the agreement at any time.
Worthington's pilot program began May 19 with 50 bikes and a six-month trial period.
Celia Thornton, a project supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department and a staff liaison to the city's bike and pedestrian advisory board, has been working with Lime since its arrival.
She said other than a couple of phone calls about bikes "blocking a sidewalk," city officials have seen and heard little negative feedback about the bikes. When they do, she said, she has called Bivenour, who responds, "Oh, yeah, we've already taken care of it."
"So far, I've been very pleased with how it's gone," Thornton said. "We had set up logs to log any calls or complaints that we get as a city, but we haven't really gotten any."
As of June 25, Thornton said, the city has tracked 566 rides from 403 riders, with the median ride lasting less than a mile.
She said she is encouraged by the early days of the program and hopes to see even more riders using the bikes as they become familiar with Lime.
"I think it's a great way to promote biking in the community," she said. "I see bikes moving around a lot, but I would like to see more people on them."
Darren Hurley, director of the Worthington Parks and Recreation Department, said any bike-sharing service that comes to the city would require an agreement approved by Worthington City Council, largely because of how often the bikes are in the public right of way and on city-owned property.
Lime bikes also are in a few Columbus neighborhoods.
Columbus' pilot program began June 4 to evaluate whether a dockless bike-share program would be beneficial for the city, said Jeff Ortega, assistant director for the Department of Public Service. Columbus already has the CoGo Bike Share program, for example, but it requires centralized docking stations.
"We differ from a dock system, where it costs a lot of money to install the infrastructure to support the system," Lime spokeswoman Emma Green 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."
The Lime bikes have been distributed in Clintonville, near Linden and in neighborhoods south of Livingston Avenue and west of Parsons Avenue, Ortega said. A total of 450 bikes are in the city, with about 150 in each of the three areas.
The pilot program is projected to last about six months, at which point the city will evaluate the program, Ortega said. At this point, there is no time frame for adding bikes in other Columbus locations, he said.
Libby Wetherholt, chairwoman of the Clintonville Area Commission, said she has seen a couple of people using Lime bikes around the neighborhood.
'Clintonville resident Will Kohler, a bike advocate who worked on a plan to create safer routes for families in the neighborhood, said he thinks the concept of Lime is exciting.
The bikes could serve people well for short trips and act as a solution for riders whose bikes aren't equipped to carry things or have flat tires or broken parts, Kohler said.
"I'm optimistic that it's going to work well," he said.
Kohler's only critique is that the bikes' gearing is so low that riders can't get over 10 mph, making them less suitable for longer trips.
Although he has yet to see anyone ride the bikes, Kohler said, he tried one to determine whether it could work for his 3-mile commute. Because the bike is a single speed as opposed to a three- or eight-speed bike, he decided to continue using his own bike to ride to work, he said.
Mechanics aside, Kohler said, he is a fan of the Lime app, especially the simplicity of it.
"They got the technology right," he said.
Bivenour said central Ohio has been a target of Lime for a while, but he couldn't talk about potential expansion past the existing programs.
Though no decisions have been made, Westerville spokeswoman Christa Dickey said Lime has been one of "a few vendors" to discuss bringing a bike-sharing program to the city.
For New Albany, city leaders haven't talked to Lime, but they are "definitely interested" in instituting a program like it in the future, said Adrienne Joly, the city's director of administrative services.
"It would be another transportation alternative for residents to get around New Albany or for workers in our business park to come to the village center or Market Square for lunch," Joly said.
For Thornton, expansion of the program would be a positive. She said she would like to see easier ways for people to ride throughout central Ohio and leave the bikes wherever they might end up.
"I would love to see Lime bikes help build that connectivity between the communities for biking," she said. "And maybe that would give us a push to put more on-street paths or trails to help connect those communities."
As Lime expands and people grow accustomed to how the service functions, Bivenour said, the program can only improve.
"People are starting to realize the benefits and the flexibility of our program," he said. "The more that people are aware of where bikes are and where they can find them ... the more that they'll be able to reap the benefits of having a dock-free system."
For more information, go to limebike.com.