What’s up with this lemon-lime flavored bike?
It’s one of a fleet of bikes that a company called LimeBike may disperse over Austin in coming months.
The bikes are part of what’s called a dockless bike sharing system.
Yes, Austin already has a traditional bike share system, called B-cycle Austin, with dozens of stations around the city. Customers can check out a bike from a B-cycle station, use it to ride to another station, and check it in, for a small fee.
RELATED: Fit City hits the road to test Austin’s B-Cycle bike share system
Dockless bike share systems like LimeBike work in a similar way, but no stations are needed. Customers use a phone app to locate and unlock a bike. They can ride it anywhere they want, then park and leave it for the next person when they’re finished using it. It costs $1 an hour, or 50 cents for students.
The no-station-needed system gives dockless systems farther reach at less cost, proponents say. Because no infrastructure is required, the system makes bikes accessible to people in areas, particularly low-income areas, where traditional bike share systems don’t have stations.
But not everyone agrees it’s a good idea. Opponents worry about the bikes cluttering sidewalks, and in Washington, D.C., bikes from dockless systems have been illegally parked, blocking walkways and building entrances. (Some pranksters have even “parked” dockless bikes in trees. Someone wrote a blog to record odd places where people find them.)
RELATED: Abandoned, vandalized and illegally parked bike share bikes now a DC problem
LimeBike, which is based in California, was founded in January and already has planted thousands of brightly painted bikes in 27 cities around the country, including Dallas.
“For the first time, mass consumers get access to bike share,” says Caen Contee, vice president of marketing and partnership for LimeBike. “Bike share has been limited to the footprint the city can afford. Even the most extensive systems are restricted to a limited downtown area. Dockless changes that because there are no infrastructure costs. We can offer a system that’s free to cities and maintains itself based on the usage of customers.”
The city is considering expanding into Austin.
I test rode one of the bikes, a three-speed model that weighs 55 pounds. It’s equipped with a front basket. A solar panel in the basket charges a battery that links the bike to a GPS system to track the bike.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth story about LimeBike in coming days.