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Dockless Bike Share Company Looking to Expand to Columbus

Brent Warren Brent Warren Dockless Bike Share Company Looking to Expand to ColumbusPhoto courtesy of LimeBike
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Columbus may soon be getting a second bike share operator. LimeBike, a California-based company that currently operates in about 50 different cities and campuses worldwide, is planning to launch here this summer.

Unlike CoGo, which features a network of stations where users are required to dock bikes after each use, LimeBike offers a completely dockless, or “free-floating” system.

LimeBikes are GPS-enabled and trackable by a phone app. The bikes are also equipped with built-in locks so they can be left virtually anywhere, although the company says it works with local entities and neighborhoods to establish specific guidelines about placement.

A spokesperson for LimeBike said that, although they are not ready to release details about the total number of bikes or which neighborhoods they will be deployed to, “we’ve been in conversations with the city and local stakeholders since 2017 and hope to bring bikes to Columbus in June.”

Those stakeholder conversations include presentations to the Clintonville, South Side and North Linden area commissions.

“The city of Columbus is developing a dock-free biking pilot program that is intended to provide more mobility options throughout the city,” said Jeff Ortega of the Department of Public Service. “It is my understanding that LimeBike is the first company to engage.”

Based on the neighborhoods involved so far, it appears that LimeBike is targeting neighborhoods that do not yet have CoGo stations (CoGo announced earlier this year plans to add 26 new stations to its network).

LimeBike and other dockless bike share companies argue that not having to install expensive docking stations allows them to offer low-cost access to bikes without any financial support from the cities or campuses where they operate. CoGo is operated by a private company, Motivate, but the city owns the bikes and stations, and made the initial investment in the system.

A half hour of riding on a LimeBike costs one dollar, although renting an electric bicycle – which have recently been introduced in some markets – will cost more. With higher rates for users and a less flexible system, will CoGo be able to compete?

A recent article in CityLab addressed that question, looking specifically at Washington D.C., where multiple dockless bike companies are now operating alongside the city’s docked system, Capital Bikeshare:

Early data from D.C.’s dockless pilot program has indicated that not only are people riding dockless, ridership on Capital Bikeshare is up as compared to this time last year. In other words, access to bikeshare seems to feed a demand for more bikeshare, and the easiest way to achieve that in more cities is with dockless equipment, or a mix of the two models.

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