A new bike-share operation, one that relies on solar energy and not docking stations, is seeking to break into the central Ohio market, and a portion of Clintonville is proposed as part of three pilot areas in Columbus.
"We're still working through things with the city," said Michael D. Reese, director of public advocacy and business development for Ice Miller LLP.
The local law firm is representing LimeBike, which was founded in January 2017 and is based in San Mateo, California.
"By systematically deploying thousands of smart bikes enabled with GPS, 3G wireless technology and self-locks, LimeBike will dramatically improve urban mobility by making the first and last mile faster, cheaper and healthier," according to the press kit on the company's website.
LimeBike, whose two-wheelers are indeed a vivid green, operates in 33 cities in a dozen states, three European cities, and two sites each in Canada and Mexico, according to the firm's website. The site also lists 18 colleges and universities where LimeBike has a presence.
In seeking to develop a "memorandum of understanding" with Columbus to permit LimeBike to launch the pilot program, Reese said he has been making the rounds of area commissions, giving presentations on the new bike-sharing possibility.
"Part of the process is to get input from those groups," Reese said.
Reese appeared before the Clintonville Area Commission on April 5 with one of the bikes as a visual aid.
CAC Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt said she expects interest to develop in the neighborhood, particularly among people who don't own bicycles.
Jeffrey M. Ortega, assistant director of the Department of Public Service, offered an email comment regarding the proposed bike-share experiment.
"The city of Columbus is developing a dock-free biking pilot program that is intended to provide more mobility options throughout the city," he wrote April 12. "It is my understanding that LimeBike is the first company to engage. It is also my understanding that this effort is just beginning. I don't have any information on time frames at this time."
The target for launching the six-month pilot project in a portion of Clintonville, Linden and the south side of Columbus near Nationwide Children's Hospital, is June, "but that's not definite," Reese said.
"We are still working through the agreement with Columbus and hope to launch in June," LimeBike spokeswoman Emma Green, who declined to answer questions over the phone but did respond via email, wrote April 19.
LimeBikes are accessed by a mobile app. The cost to ride is $1 for every 30 minutes, Reese said at the CAC session.
In addition to being dock-free, LimeBike press materials tout that the firm's approach also does not require subsidies like some other bike-sharing operations.
"Because we are subsidy-free, larger cities and universities tend to be the best fit because the demand for increased accessible mobility is already there, but the communities we operate in range in size and demographics," Green wrote. "In addition to Columbus being the 15th-largest city in the U.S., we believe central Ohio will be a receptive region to smart-bike share, due to its progressive nature toward transportation and environmental issues."
The press materials assert that "traditional bike-sharing systems charge cities/taxpayers up to $5,000 per bike, with station and maintenance, in order to maintain the network."
If and when the experimental period begins, Reese said 150 LimeBikes would be deployed in the three areas.
The section of Clintonville proposed for the pilot project would be south of Henderson Road, north of Weber Road, east of the Olentangy River and west of North High Street.
"I think part of it is we don't want to go in the same area that CoGo is," Reese said, referring to the existing bike-sharing program in Columbus.