The Lime bike experiment has failed in Bellevue

Jan 2, 2020

The controversial Lime e-bike pilot in the City of Bellevue has not worked out as planned, and Lime will be removing the 400 or so e-bikes from city streets in the coming months.

The pilot originally launched in July 2018 and was supposed to help reduce congestion and encourage more e-bike use in the downtown core. Unfortunately, as many can attest, lack of use, e-bike dumping and safety issues with the program have contributed to its ultimate demise.

The City reports on its website that about 40,000 trips were taken by 9,000 people, which equates to about 90 rides per day for the 15-month pilot. The lack of riders, despite e-bike availability, certainly was a factor in determining the success and viability of the program.

While we wait for the final e-bike pilot summary from the city later this year, we can look to failed pilots in other cities for some insight into e-bikeshare programs and why they don’t always work.

One of the conclusions reached by other early adopters of e-bikes is that the e-bikes generated more operational cost than anticipated. Additionally, with the abandonment of the bikes, the daily e-bike roundup and transporting them to more appropriate locations proved costly, both in financial and environmental impact. The e-bikes themselves developed mechanical problems sooner than expected. This reduced the return on investment and the cost to collect and repair drove the profit down further.

Safety with e-bikes also became an issue as riders routinely broke both city and state laws by not wearing helmets. This behavior also runs directly counter to Bellevue’s Vision Zero goals as other cities have discovered.

The City of Bellevue granted public right-of-way access for the e-bike program, effectively giving a competitive advantage and free transportation infrastructure to a private company. Despite this advantage, the pilot program failed to generate demand for up to the 1,200 e-bike demand that was predicted by Lime at the outset of the program.

The city is working on citizen feedback and a summary of the pilot, and is due to release the results by the end of 2019.