Jeff Roberts and Kellye Tallent show off some of LimeBike’s inventory. (David Taffet/ Dallas Voice)
LimeBike wants to be a solution to Dallas’ mobility problems and help reduce the area’s carbon footprint
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Locally, people have burned 2.3 million calories riding LimeBikes since the bright-lime-green-colored bikes were put on the streets of Dallas in August. That’s the equivalent of working off 4,085 Big Macs.
Currently LimeBike has 2,600 bicycles on Dallas streets (and bike trails, sidewalks and medians) — probably more by now. By the end of the year, the company plans to have 5,000 bike deployed around the city.
Just a few years ago, Fort Worth pulled ahead of Dallas in the battle to make the area bike friendly by adding a number of docking stations — racks where bicycles could be picked up and returned.
But LimeBike’s Dallas operations manager, Jeff Roberts, says that now, that model is “antiquated.”
Docking stations are fine for someone who wants to go for a bike ride, he explained, but not for people using bicycles as a form of transportation.
First, those docking stations cost host cities a fortune in infrastructure charges, he said. LimeBike and its three local competitors cost Dallas nothing.
Bike shares like LimeBike can be picked up almost anywhere in the central part of the city, then dropped off at the rider’s final destination, wherever that is. So if a DART station is just a mile or two too far from the destination, that person can rent a bike to cover that distance.
Car in the shop? Check the app to find the closest location someone has parked a bike and pick it up to get home or to the office. Just want to go for a bike ride? Check the app.
The first step in using LimeBike, Roberts explained, is downloading the app. Each bike is equipped with GPS, so the app shows where the closest bikes are.
Find a bike and point the phone at the QR code located in three locations on the bike. That unlocks the latch on the back wheel, and you are off.
When you are done, press down the lever near the rear wheel to lock the tire. That signals the app that your ride is done.
LimeBike charges $1 per half hour. Frequent riders can purchase 100 rides for $30, and anyone with a valid .edu email address rides for half price.
If bikes are being dropped where no one is picking them up, Roberts said, GPS tells him exactly where those bikes are, and he sends out a team to round them up and reposition them.
The LimeBike app has info for the rider as well as for the company. For instance, when the rider is done, the app tells them how far they traveled, how long the trip took them, how many calories they burned during the ride and the carbon savings from that trip.
Vandalism has been a surprisingly minor issue, Roberts said, and theft has been nonexistent. Bikes may be stolen, but Roberts said he knows exactly where they’ve been taken because of the GPS system.
Only about 1 percent of the bikes have been damaged in accidents or vandalized. Roberts said he expects even that small figure to drop as customers get better at how and where to drop the bikes since, some damage is due to bikes falling over or being hit by cars after they’re parked.
Roberts said riders aren’t allowed to leave bikes where they would block sidewalks or other rights-of-way. The best place to park them, he added, is on medians and out of traffic.
Roberts called bike sharing “a solution for mobility” in large cities, but even he’s been surprised at how far and wide his bikes have been taken. A number of people have picked up a bike in Dallas, taken the TRE to Fort Worth and rode from Intermodal Station. Since LimeBike doesn’t have an agreement with Fort Worth — yet — the company heads across the river to pick those bikes up themselves.
Not everyone in Dallas is sold on the idea of dropping bikes wherever you end up. Roberts said he gets complaints from some properties about bikes being left on their grounds. But then, on the other hand, he gets more calls asking for bikes to be placed nearby.
And, he said, he’s happy to comply with either type of request.
LimeBike’s founders got the idea from China and founded the company in San Mateo, Calif. in January. They’re already in 25 markets.
In flat, beach areas, the bikes are equipped with just one speed. For hillier cities — like Dallas — the bikes come with three-speed, handlebar gearshifts. And for anyone laughing about the idea of Dallas being “hilly” — well, travel the city on a bike before you laugh.
For truly hilly cities, like Seattle, LimeBike has a third model with eight gears.
Flat tires should be a constant problem for a company with a fleet soon to number 5,000 locally, but LimeBikes are equipped with solid rubber tires.
LimeBike distributed its first bikes in Oak Lawn, downtown and Lower Greenville. Bishop Arts sees so many bike visitors, special parking is available. As more bikes arrive, they’ll be spread farther and wider around the city, especially at hubs like DART stations and transfer points.
The company rented a large warehouse south of Deep Ellum. The huge facility is mostly empty now, but Roberts said the plans are for it to be a distribution point regionally and for the East Coast until the company establishes itself there. Houston is the next Texas city LimeBike where expects to open.
LimeBike actively recruits a diverse workforce especially in the LGBT community, which includes a large part of the Dallas team. They’re part of Out in Technology and do targeted outreach to LGBT student groups.
Roberts said there are several reasons to use LimeBike and his company’s outreach to the LGBT community is just one. The bike, itself, he said, is simply better built than those of his competitors and has more features.
The seat can be raised and lowered farther than those on competitor’s bikes and can be done with the flip of a lever — no tools required.
The lights run on a solar battery located in the basket. A cell phone mount adjusts for the variety of sizes.
But Roberts’ number one reason to try LimeBike first may be the most important.
“We have the biggest basket,” he said.