LimeBike releases rider data for Lake Tahoe’s South Shore
It’s been a month since LimeBike launched its pilot bike-sharing program on the South Shore — and depending on whom you ask, it’s either going very well or not well at all.
All over town from Stateline to the Y, residents and tourists alike can be found riding the bikes, which operate without a dock, instead using GPS, a locking mechanism and a smartphone app for booking.
The numbers point to a successful first month.
Between July 14 and Aug. 6, 1,926 unique riders have used the 200 LimeBikes dispersed across the South Shore, accounting for a cumulative 3,548 rides. On average, 105 riders use the bikes each day. The median ride time is 17 minutes and the median distance is a half-mile.
Data shows that there is a high concentration of use from visitors in the Stateline area, Lakeview Commons, and Ski Run Marina. Recurring trips have also been logged from residents commuting from the Ski Run Boulevard area and adjacent neighborhoods to the casinos corridor.
“The numbers are really, really good. It’s replacing car trips and that’s exactly what we wanted,” said Marissa Fox, senior policy analyst for The League to Save Lake Tahoe, the organization that helped bring LimeBike to the community. “I think we’ve had a handful of people that have concerns, but the overwhelming response has been positive.”
Hop onto Facebook, and these concerns are not hard to find on community pages.
Pictures show some bikes parked in odd locations, but also bikes that have been purposefully placed in bad spots — one was thrown in the lake, another suspended from a hook at a marina, and two hung on a fence.
“It makes our job a lot harder,” said Steven Owens, one of five locally-hired LimeBike employees whose job it is to keep the bikes distributed evenly at the various South Shore hubs — beaches, parks and businesses that have partnered with the company. “It’s a service that’s here to help.”
Nick Fong, LimeBike’s new market launcher, has been living on the South Shore and managing the pilot program. He said that compared to other markets he has launched in, people are not using the support channels to contact LimeBike when a bike is parked in a bad spot. Instead, he finds out about it from Facebook.
Another criticism of LimeBike has been its potential impact on local bike shops.
“We’re trying to compete with cars, not bike shops,” said Fong. “The numbers show that people are using the bikes for short rides to get to places.”
“We do not recommend people use the LimeBikes on the Flume Trail,” joked Fong.
Sam Hyslop, owner of Over The Edge Tahoe, a bike shop off of Ski Run Boulevard, said he thinks the program is “great.” He has even offered his services as a repair shop for the bikes.
“I don’t see it as competition. We are renting a completely different type of bike. People are using the LimeBikes more as transportation, not recreation,” said Hyslop. “I think it’s an awesome service that gets cars off the road. I’ve witnessed people in nice clothing riding the bikes, clearly on their way to dinner, and on a bike instead of in a car.”
Hyslop said he has not noticed any change on the rental side of his business.
Not all bike shop owners share his view.
“I think it’s a neat idea and a pretty amazing business plan, but it doesn’t fit in a town that has so many bike shops trying to make a living on bikes,” said Gary Bell, owner of Sierra Ski & Cycle Works on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. “For them to have come from out of town at a price that no one can match, it’s not good.”
Bell said that if the bikes are going to stay, he’d like to see them kept at docking stations and for the prices to be raised. Right now, a 30-minute ride costs $1.
“I haven’t put a number on it, but I’ve noticed a difference in our rental [revenue],” added Bell.
At the end of LimeBike’s three-month pilot program, the bikes will be removed for the winter. But will they be back?
“A big part of it will be if people want us to come back,” said Fong. “If we do, we’d really like to advocate for better cell service here, too. That’s something we could be a part of.”