Sparks City Council decided at its Monday meeting that it will not continue the LimeBike rideshare pilot program that launched on May 14. The contract is set to expire in January 2019.
The easy-to-rent bright green bicycles have allowed people to get around easier than ever, with the convenience of using a smartphone to unlock one, ride it, and leave it in a nearby location when the ride is finished.
LimeBike expanded its offerings to include the Lime-Classic bicycles, Lime-E electric-assist bicycles, and Lime-S electric scooters, yet the City of Sparks thought that just the bicycles were going to be allowed in the community.
According to a presentation by Lime representative Cesar Cardona at a September 10 City Council meeting, there have been 13,000 riders in the Sparks area alone who have logged up to 15,000 miles. Most local residents are using them to ride around the Sparks Marina and Victorian Square.
However, as LimeBikes and electric scooters became more popular, safety and law enforcement concerns are starting to spring up as well as a whole new industry of lawyers to support people who have been injured in LimeBike accidents.
Just last month, a 17-year-old Lime scooter rider in South Lake Tahoe was hospitalized after she got hit by a car. Although a LimeBike scooter rider must be at least 16 years old, wear a helmet, and carry a valid driver’s license, the question of whether people are following these traffic and safety laws is causing great concern. Piles of LimeBikes are being left everywhere- on bridges, road medians, and blocking sidewalks, impeding pedestrian use. South Lake Tahoe law enforcement have also noticed that very few LimeBike users have been wearing helmets or abiding traffic laws, which can result in crashes and/or serious injuries.
At the Sept. 10 Sparks City Council meeting, Lime Regional General Manager Cesar Cardona said, “Since Day One we haven’t let go of the safety, it’s been something that’s been constant, it’s been the number one priority for the company and we’re always listening to our constituents and partners.” Sparks residents/Lime employees also spoke highly of the program and the positive impact it has made on the local community.
However, Cardona failed to mention in his presentation a specific deployment date for the electric scooters which has seem to cause the majority of the traffic accidents, despite city councilman Kristopher Dahir request for information about it. Cardona said that introducing the electric scooters into Sparks was part of the contract and that the company is looking into geofencing and ways to bring the maximum speed of an electric scooter down from 15 mph.
“The whole thing seems weird to me and not something you should be doing,” Dahir told Cardona in the September 10 meeting about how Lime is handling the electric scooters, “but the bikes are great.”
The fact that LimeBike launched the electric scooter program with less than a 12-hour notice to local government agencies without addressing state law compliance concerns and informing the city of Lime’s geofencing capabilities was a huge red flag to Sparks City Council members.
“LimeBike came to council our last meeting two weeks ago and gave us a nice presentation on what usage there was in Sparks and where it was. Really good stuff that we were all happy to see the benefits of the bike share program in our city. We gave them a variety of feedback about the scooters and some things to look at before thinking about releasing them,” says city councilmember Donald Abbott.
Then on September 17, LimeBike sent out an email at 10 p.m. stating that the e-scooters would be deployed the following day. This was totally out of the blue for the City due to the lack of communication and the company not addressing the city’s concerns. The City of Reno also released a cease and desist order on the scooters and then the next day they were gone (but the bikes are still around).
“For me I don’t like to start off a partnership this way and they haven’t been very good partners so I’m okay if we just do not renew their contract at the end of the (pilot) period. And then to cut off communication with us for the past week too seems childish. We have to protect our citizens,” city councilman Ed Lawson said.
“We have many safety concerns with the scooters that weren’t addressed and at the end of the day one of our jobs is to look after the safety of our citizens in our city. I’m happy with the bike share idea and hope we can find another partner, but I’m not happy with how LimeBike is doing business with us or the region,” Abbott says.
Sparks City Council unanimously voted to not renew the LimeBike contract after it expires in January 2019.