A second bike share program eyes Treasure Valley

Teya Vitu//May 8, 2018

A second bike share program eyes Treasure Valley

Teya Vitu//May 8, 2018

Boise City Hall. The city has invested $200,000 over three years in Boise GreenBike, and has docking stations downtown, at Boise State University, along the Boise River Greenbelt and in the North End neighborhood. Photo by Anne Wallace Allen.

San Mateo, California,-based Lime, formerly known as LimeBike, wants to plant hundreds of its bright green bike-share bicycles on Treasure Valley sidewalks as it has done in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and 35 other U.S. cities.  along with Lime bikes hitting the streets of Reno this month.

The city of Meridian on April 18 sent a memo of understanding to Lime welcoming as many as 200 of the dockless bike-sharing Lime bikes. But Meridian would require Ada County Highway District’s blessing, as ACHD has jurisdiction over all streets and sidewalks in Meridian and nearly all the streets and sidewalks in the rest of the county.

ACHD has not taken a stand on Lime. The company hasn’t approached ACHD with a proposal, “so we don’t have an official stance on it and there is no timeframe,” ACHD spokeswoman Nicole DuBois said in an email.

In the meantime, Lime plans to make a presentation May 15 at a Boise City Council work session. It’s not clear if, when or where Lime will appear in the Treasure Valley. Lime made an information-only presentation March 13 to the Eagle City Council, which was receptive to the concept.

“We’re working with several municipalities in the Treasure Valley to be able to serve the region,” said Emma Green, a Lime public relations person. “We currently do not have updates on timing and details given the pending agreements.”

Boise city staffers are a little circumspect about Lime. Boise has invested $200,000 in the three-year-old Boise GreenBike, which is a Valley Regional Transit bike sharing program with 127 bicycles operating in the greater downtown, at Boise State University, along the Boise River Greenbelt and in the North End neighborhood.

Boise GreenBike has 80 docking stations while Lime is an undocked bike share concept with bikes parked anywhere.

Lime wants to offer dockless bike sharing in Meridian, Boise and Eagle. Photo courtesy of Lime.

“What we’ve seen in other cities is (Lime bikes) are left all over the place,” said Daren Fluke, the city of Boise’s comprehensive planning manager. “Our concerns are how it would impact Boise GreenBike and its sponsors.”

Boise GreenBike is 76.3 percent sponsorship-funded and about 25 percent funded by riders who pay $5 for one hour, $15 per month or $70 or $100 per year. The primary sponsors are St. Luke’s Health System and Select Health at a combined $146,000 a year with other station sponsors bringing the sponsorship total to $279,500, Boise GreenBike director Dave Fotsch said.

“It is of concern to me and this program because we would have a hard time competing with LimeBike,” Fotsch said. “We are not venture capital funded as they are.”

Lime has amassed $132 million in venture capital for an enterprise only established in January 2017. Its first bikes were launched at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in May 2017. Soon thereafter, Lime delivered bikes in Key Biscayne, Florida in June; in Seattle, South San Francisco and South Bend, Indiana, in July; and in Dallas and Greensboro, North Carolina, in August.

Lime has more than 35,000 vehicles in services, including bicycles, electric-assist bikes and electric scooters. Lime bikes are checked out via phone app.

Lime charges $1 for 30 minutes for traditional bicycles, while scooters and electric assist bikes have a $1 unlocking fee plus a charge of $1 for 10 minutes.

“All of our vehicles are GPS and 3G enabled, which allows a dock-free system that gives people the freedom to ride to where they need to go,” Green said. “On the ground, we have a maintenance team figuring out where to place bikes.”

Megan Colford, who handles community affairs for Lime and previously was Lime’s Bay Area general manager, is a Boise native and former Boise resident and made the presentations in Meridian and Eagle.

Meridian favors the Lime bike share program

Meridian is intrigued by Lime as a transportation option, as the city has no local bus service.

Lime approached Meridian in January and the proposal fell in the lap of Caleb Hood, the planning division manager. He facilitates the city’s transportation committee.

Lime presented its program to the transportation commission on March 5 and to the Meridian City Council on April 10, and the city sent an April 18 memorandum of understanding clearing the way for a two-year pilot program for Lime bikes to park on city property, Hood said.

Lime has not returned a signed memo.

“I’m speculating they are waiting for ACHD and Boise signing an MOU,” Hood said of ACHD.  Meridian planned a town hall meeting May 9 to address its comprehensive plan, as well as the Lime bike share program.

“This is a private enterprise that wants to solve a transportation problem,” Hood summed up the council view. “We don’t see any risk here.  I looked at other cities about lessons learned. Most of the problems were in major cities. Smaller cities recommended community outreach (about how Lime works).

“One of the concerns,” Hood continued, “was littering the streets with bikes or people being reckless with them. They’ll have a local team that will reallocate these bikes. Every night they will pick them up and put them in places where people will like them.”

Boise GreenBike has offered bike sharing since 2015

Boise was the first Treasure Valley city to enter the bike-share market.

Boise GreenBike has 127 bicycles and 80 docking locations with plans to add another 115 bikes in 2019, director Dave Fotsch said.

Fotsch believes he can put 10 to 15 additional bikes in service this summer from a batch of 85 used bikes  with fading paint that he is acquiring from a sister bike-share program in Topeka, Kansas. The remaining bikes would be used for parts for the existing Boise GreenBike fleet.

Boise GreenBike has 11,956 active members who have made 72,716 unique trips and logged 149,317 miles since the program launched in April 2015. More than 10,000 members are pay-as-you-go riders who pay $5 an hour, while 26 riders are annual members who pay $70 for a year and 60 are premium annual members who pay $100 for a year.

About 25 downtown employer groups make up a large share of riders. St. Luke’s Health System has 550 GreenBike members, the city of Boise has 255 members and Ada County has 204 members, Fotsch said.

Boise GreenBike is a third-party operator of New York City-based JUMP Bikes, now owned by Uber and  formerly known as Social Bicycles or, more commonly, SoBi. JUMP has 15,000 bikes in more than 40 markets, including Ketchum.