Our Town: Off Duty: LimeBike

“This gives you the flexibility to ride around anywhere in Raleigh.”

–Sarah Williams, campus program coordinator, N.C. State University department of transportation

by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Madeline Gray

You’ve likely seen the neon green bikes: they’re a familiar site near N.C. State’s campus, in downtown parking lots and parks, and even in neighborhoods. “They’re pretty much everywhere,” local program coordinator Sarah Williams says of LimeBikes.

The aptly named cycles are dockless, which means they can be left anywhere by a rider: they automatically lock and await the next person. N.C. State introduced 300 bikes this fall, and they’ve quickly spread beyond campus. Since August, almost 16,000 users have used the bikes more than 50,000 times. “They’re for anybody to use.”

Williams works for N.C. State’s department of transportation, where she says she and her colleagues have sought to bring a public bicycle system, called bike share, to campus for a few years. Bike shares usually include bike racks, which is both an initial investment and a logistical challenge. Racks also limit where users can pick-up and drop-off bikes. When the start-up LimeBike launched in California last January, promising a rack-less program, it caught the Raleigh team’s eye. In June, UNC-Greensboro released the first-ever LimeBike installation. It was successful, and “we followed suit pretty soon after.”

To use a LimeBike, you download an app and load your credit card information. When you’re ready to ride, you scan the QR code located on each bike to unlock it. Rides cost one dollar per half-hour, or fifty cents per half-hour for students. User fees pay a small local LimeBike staff to pick up, service, and maintain the bikes. “It’s exciting how easy it was to implement,” Williams says, “and to see how many people want to ride bikes. Now that they have this option, it’s almost constantly used.”

Hopefully there will be more LimeBikes come spring, Williams says, and adds that the campus initiative wants to work cohesively with the City of Raleigh and its BikeRaleigh plan. “The best part of this is that it’s shown how Raleigh really wants to have a bike share.”