The United States lags behind other countries when it comes to transportation - aside from cars. Be it public transportation or in this case, bicycles, Americans just love cars too much.
Unfortunately, there's a threshold for how cars affect local economies. For many on the lower end of the income spectrum, cars are unaffordable. Be it gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and the car itself - costs quickly add up.
Cal State University of Northridge is spearheading Limebike. If you've passed by the university recently, you've definitely see these bright-green bikes.
The idea of having public bike rentals is a newer one, but it is taking off and proving to be successful. This is a trend that started with other cities several years ago. New York was one of the first, and San Francisco followed quickly after. Now they are popping up in cities everywhere.
There are many great reasons that inspired this choice. It's hard to argue which is number one, but the initiative and funding came from their climate action plan “which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving campus energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy production and increasing the use of carbon-neutral transportation options (such as biking) by campus users.” (1)
The company hired to conduct the project is Limebike. They have been the provider for most of the cities that have adopted similar programs. The name is signified by their bright green colored bikes. This is to make them easy to find and symbolize their green effect on the Earth.
Anyone who has gone to the beach and rented a bike has probably gone up to a makeshift stand and stood in line to pay a person the rental fee. They probably leave an ID, credit card or cash deposit to ensure that they will not run off with it. Limebike has revolutionized this process altogether.
How to Sign Up
Doing a bike share program without having a storefront is no easy feat, but Limebike has a creative solution. Like just about everything today, the first step is to download their app.
The service is open to anyone but if you have a CSUN ID, you get 50% off any ride. So if you are a student make sure to mention it when you sign up.
There is also an offer that is open to anyone. If you put in the code "LIMEWITHCSUN" before Febrary 31st, you will receive 10 free rides. This is to try and get people signing up as quickly as possible.
The program requires a card payment - credit or debit is fine. You put it in when you sign up, so you don’t even need it each time that you use the bike.
How it works
Unlike many other bicycle rental programs, this one does not have a docking station that you have to bring it back to. Instead, it just has to be left within a certain geographic area, which they can tell from the GPS.
In addition to the geographic area, it is important to leave the bike in a place that will not put it or anyone else in harm. These rules include some more obvious ones, like not in roadways or walkways. They also say not to leave it in busy areas like bus stops or intersections. The bike must be left standing upright.
They recommend some pretty obvious locations like bike stands, but they are pretty relaxed about it in general. Ideally, they are left in places where the next person will be able to find them easily.
To get one just look on your app to see where the closest bike is. If they are all taken, you can see when the next one will be available.
Always look for damage before riding, and report it if the bike was left in a bad location.
The idea revolutionary for several several reasons. There have been other public bike rental programs introduced all over the world.
Most programs have a station where you leave the bike. This is where it charges the power for the GPS and other electronics. It also serves as a point to begin and end the billing cycle.
The Limebike Difference
Lime Bike has found a way to eliminate the drop-off stations. One benefit of this is less cost to implement the program and then to the end user.
The bikes have a GPS that tracks them wherever they go. The bikes can only be taken throughout a certain geographic area. If the bike leaves this area the GPS triggers an alarm that locks the bike's wheel and contacts the Limebike hub.
You can call to tell them it was a mistake and have it unlocked. If you do not contact them, the bike will be reported stolen and authorities will report to the last GPS location.
It also makes it so that the bikes are more spread out making them more accessible. The app has a find-a-bike feature with a map that will show you the closest bike.
If the next person to use the bike finds that you did not leave it appropriately, they will document it by picture and text. This could potentially hurt your ability to rent from them again in the future.
The funding for the program came from and action plan to reduce green house gases in the atmosphere.
With fewer people driving cars, and more on bikes, the environmental benefits are never-ending. Cars are one of the leading causes of green house gases which is what the plan is being funded to reduce.
Bicycles require less roads which means more room for trees. This will make a big difference in reducing carbon emissions that are already in the atmosphere.
Cars put particles into the air that our local smog as well as the global atmosphere. Northridge is in the center of the valley, giving it the worst of the smog. This will be hitting the problem at the epicenter.
One of the biggest things it does, especially for us Angelenos, is helping to reduce traffic. The Valley has been known to not have the traffic problems of LA proper but every year that gets less true. Northridge is at the very center of the valley and is experiencing the impact of commuters more than any other neighborhood.
Part of the plan is to add more bike lanes as well. Some naysayers have worried about this since the only place to take the space from is roads for cars. However, this is not supported by the facts.
In 2013 Portland made a huge initiative to re-allocate road space for bicycles. They did so with the thought that it was better to incentivize bikes than cars. Many people worried that this would increase traffic with the fewer lanes.
Instead it had the opposite effect. People started the switch from car to bike seamlessly and now Portland has much less traffic.
At any University in Los Angeles, it is almost daily that you will see someone walk late and use our undeniable excuse: traffic. Schools in LA all have a horrible reputation for parking.
This will both help alleviate the problem as well as give people an accessible option to avoid it altogether. Fixing two problems at once.
This obviously sounds good now but as it grows it could be one of the most convenient forms of transportation available. Owning and maintaining a bike isn’t as easy as a lot of people would think.
Many apartments around CSUN are very tight to be keeping it indoors. Locking it up outside is always a somewhat of a risk since technically any lock can be cut. Then you are also at risk every time you leave home and park your bike somewhere.
The peace of mind that a quick ride is always available will improve the happiness of people who live in the area.
Not Yours, Not your Loss
Even if you have the best lock and buy your own GPS these are not fool-proof. If your Limebike gets stolen you are not responsible. You just need to follow all of their rules and make sure to report it right away to the police.
The program is subsidized and the cost is $1/hour. Or $0.50 for CSUN students.
Fit Able-Bodied Community
Incentivizing bicycle riding as a form of exercise is hugely beneficial to society. Fitness is never a bad thing for a community. Able-bodied individuals contribute to a happier, more active atmosphere.
Riding a bike is an easy way to start a conversation. You can park next to someone and even talk while you're riding.
Also when the zombie apocalypse comes, you will want to have neighbors that are in good shape. The Bikes might come in handy too.
If this program spreads to nearby areas, the accessibility gets exponentially better. Eventually, cities will start to build around this lifestyle change. We will see streets sacrificed for bike paths and parking lots replaced with bike stands. We can expect less pollution of both noise and air. We will also have a lot more open space without massive roads for cars.
This investment is tried and ttrue and the people of northridge and CSUN will be pleased with the outcome from this.