Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment Internet of Everything Wireless

Shared Bikes & More Without Fixed Infrastructure

In the above video, filmed at Pepcom’s Digital Experience held in conjunction with CES2018, LimeBike’s VP of Marketing and Partnerships, Caen Contee made a prediction that LimeBike would grow by 300,000 bikes in the U.S. in just a quarter or two. Judging by this author’s February visit to Scottsdale, AZ and his use of LimeBike in San Jose, LimeBike seems well on the way to meeting its goal.

Contee indicates dockless, bike-share provides better value than other forms of transport for short distances and suggests a $5 to $7 per mile savings compared to ride-share. For short distances, it is often faster and more convenient to hop on a shared bike and ride directly to one’s destination, avoiding the costs and hassle of parking a car. Contee calls bikes pro-community in that they drive local commerce.

The so-called dockless, bike sharing approach is well established in China with hundreds of millions of bicycles deployed and is well on its way to providing an alternative last-mile transportation solutions in the U.S. That LimeBike has so many fast-growing competitors, which include Bird (electric scooters), CycleHopJump (just acquired by Uber), Mobike, Ofo, Spin and VBikes indicates that this market segment is real [For an excellent overview of the dockless, bikesharing segment and a proposal to create a BYOB – “Bring Your Own Battery solution – , check out this Medium article by Asher M].

This author’s experience with the e-assist bike is that it lives up to its name and provides an assist. One still has to pedal and he won’t go faster than 15 MPH. It would be especially useful in windy or hilly conditions.
What enables this new form of mobility is the addition of wireless broadband, GPS and the smartphone interface. For instance, to unlock a LimeBike, one simply uses an app to find, pay for and unlock, via a QR code, a bike. In the case of LimeBike, the charge is $1 for 30 minutes or $1 for 10 minutes with the electric-assist bike. When the rider reaches her destination, she simply closes a lever on a built-in locking mechanism to complete her trip.

Thanks to GPS and connectivity, LimeBike can tell where all its bikes and scooters are and can dispatch employees in LimeBike vans to move them as needed to meet demand. LimeBike also provides incentives for riders to move bikes, by providing coupons to use bikes that have been left in areas with lower demand.

This author recently parked for “free” outside Silicon Valley’s downtown core and then used a LimeBike electric scooter for transport back to his car. The 4 minute, 3,600 foot journey was a fun way to decompress from a mentally exhausting conference.
The addition of electric-assist, which Contee describes above, opens up the market to a new class of riders. The electric-assist feature makes pedaling a little easier in windy or hilly conditions and gives an acceleration boost. Since the above video was filmed, LimeBike has also introduced electric scooters.

Biking, particularly dockless, shared biking, faces a number of challenges, including:

  • Lack of safe bike infrastructure – Contee views infrastructure as a chicken-egg problem and as an opportunity. For intance, LimeBike shares anonymous data with cities to help them show where demand is, so infrastructure can be improved.
  • Like China, dockless sharing in the U.S. faces the issue of so-called #bikelitter (Instagram examples), where people leave bikes in places they shouldn’t. Contee points out that LimeBike is seeing less than a 1% theft or vandalism rate (he didn’t indicate over what time period). He says that the bikes have alarms and sensors that will alert the LimeBike team if there is an issue. He also talks about LimeBike’s pro-active efforts in working with the community and cities to prevent issues.
Limebike's with the future in front of them.

The dockless, bikesharing industry is taking the challenges seriously, as evidenced by a couple of initiatives centered around the idea of creating people-centric cities. Bird has called on its competitors to join it in a “Save our Sidewalks” campaign to ensure bikes aren’t strewn about, as well as provide a mechanism to help cities improve bike infrastructure. Meanwhile, LimeBike, along with other bikeshare and players in the mobility space, have signed on to the Robin Chase-led, Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities that aims to put people first as new transportation technology is introduced.

That these principles were signed by such a wide swath of industry together with as well Jump’s acquisition by Uber indicate that the dockless, bikesharing may end up being a feature in a continuum of mobility options; one where a single app might open up a world of possibilities from bikeshare to rideshare to carshare.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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