By. Chris Stritzel
On Monday, St. Louis Mayor, Lyda Krewson, announced that bike share would begin. After a few days with the bike share system being around town, I decided to look into it and see if it is a good thing to have in St. Louis. Nothing can be done in my style without tweeting this question:
I got several responses and one (featured) answered my question very well.
Now that I understand the system behind leaving the bikes out, I can review this truthfully. I honestly think it is weird to see these green bikes sitting out on a corner with no chain or rack to hook onto. I chuckled to myself when I saw three bright green bikes sitting in front of the Vintage Haberdashery on Morgan Ford. It really isn't an everyday site to see (but could be now). With the tweet's answer and seeing the bike first hand, I now understand that a little black box on the back wheel does. It keeps the bike locked whenever it is not in use. To me, that makes the situation better, but the one thing that still bugs me is the system to pay for the bike. I’m not sure about Chicago’s system, but the mobile phone app and credit card system on LimeBike (ours) seems off for me, and you'll see why later. But that opinion won’t stop people who want to ride on the bikes around town.
Since it’s launch on Monday, I’ve seen about 8 people riding these bright green bikes around town, in particular (5), Midtown-CWE, but in smaller neighborhoods, like Tower Grove South (2), it becomes more uncommon for now. I could see this catching on in the future as a preferred system for die hard bikers, but we aren’t there yet. I will admit, I have criticized the bike lanes in the past and I still have my problems with them (dangerous is number one) but I do think they can be improved without interfering with traffic flow. If the bike lane problem is solved, cars and bikes can go side by side harmoniously. For now, that will have to wait.
The bike share idea isn’t that bad, it promotes a healthier lifestyle for people, but for others who are hesitant, it seems like a lost cause. The way it was introduced was great but now carrying it out in the real world, the system will run into problems. LimeBike and others need to keep the system attractive and make people want to use it. We can’t just have a few hundred use it, it’s fine if we do, but it wouldn’t be good enough for a system of this size with bikes scattered all over. Maybe one day more people will ride the bikes in walkable neighborhoods and nearby neighborhoods.
Other than me being skeptical about putting my Card information into the app, it is designed very well. I’m skeptical because of all the date leaks and card hackings recently and a app like this, and overall a system that is very new, just doesn't seem safe… YET. There is a map that shows nearby bikes so that you can walk over, scan the barcode and get rolling. That’s good if you are in a hurry or you don't know where bikes are. It's efficient, that's all one could really ask for. You don't want to be held up with some hard to use app with tons of menus.
The interface is a simple map with pins showing you where the bikes are located. Then you click on a pin and click "unlock" where you then scan the QR code on the bike to unlock it. It is quick and simple. The cost to ride is $1 per 30 minutes, which is VERY cheap for something like this.
The gallery bellow shows you the app icon (iOS), general interface and the bar code on the bike itself.
There is a lot of potential here, but it will take a lot of convincing to get more people riding bikes around instead of taking cars. We also have to address the bike lane issues while making everyone happy. Time will tell whether or not this works out, but I hope it does. I give it 4.5/5 stars. The half point off was because of the Card information and my skepticism.
Have you tried this system (LimeBike) or any other Bike Sharing systems in the U.S.? If so (and if not), let me know in the comments so I can get your take.
ADDITION: There is also another service in St. Louis by the name of OFO, they have yellow bikes, but I have yet to see a station for them. I assume they work the same way that the Lime Bikes work.