Valley’s bike-share project looking pretty green

WESLACO — Lime is the color of the Valley’s transportation future.

The Lower Rio Grande Development Council yesterday discussed moving forward with a regional bike-sharing proposal which would use a company called Lime as the provider of bikes for any city or town that wants them.

These dockless bikes will not be tied to any bike racks but instead will be dropped off in designated areas and tracked with GPS. A mobile phone app registers a credit or debit card payment of about $1 per half hour and unlocks the bikes.

“The committee decided that the company Lime would be the best fit in terms of supporting the needs of our region and are very intrigued by the fact that we’ve come to find we’re just the second in the nation in doing it like this, as far as a partnership between several cities,” Ron Garza, executive director of the LRGVDC, told the board.

Cities in the North Boston area were the first to do a multi-city bike-share.

Next, he said, Valley cities must have a unified ordinance based on Dallas’s experience and subsequent rules which they must pass before signing up for the bike-share program.

Dallas learned the hard way to do bike-sharing the right way, he said.

“Dallas has been kind of a lesson on what not to do, but this ordinance was the last standing compliance measure so we’re using that,” Garza said.

Garza said Harlingen City Manager Dan Serna offered his help as well as the city attorney’s to shape the Dallas ordinance into something tailored to the Valley and he hopes to have that next month.

Harlingen currently has a contract with the Zagster bike-share service, but that will lapse and be superseded by signing up with the Lime service which Garza says he hopes to start in October.

“Again, the great thing about this service is there’s zero cost to the city, there’s no infrastructure cost for the bike, the equipment, the cities don’t own it, cities don’t maintain it,” Garza added. “We just need to make sure that it’s compliant to be safe and all the other things that we want. Having one dockless provider will help us hold accountability to that one company.”

Garza said after the meeting Lime initially offered to place 1,800 bikes in Valley cities and towns but the council felt it might be over-saturating the region and the actual number of bikes will be significantly reduced.

Accountability a key

So what if bikes are left in the wrong areas, just who is responsible for that?

“Any time there’s a violation, somebody’s parking somewhere or it ends up somewhere it shouldn’t, they have 24 hours to take care of the situation,” he said of Lime. “Basically it’s a number of strikes before we remove the permit.

“Here there’s power in numbers because if they’re not really compliant to one particular city, our mutual agreement will say, you might have all your cities taken away,” he added.

Where’s the profit?

Many people wonder just how a bike-sharing company can be profitable providing cities with a free service.

“Really, it boils down to how many times it’s rented per day,” Garza said. “If every bike gets rented at least once per day, they are very happy. That’s a very successful benchmark. They’ll take a little less than that.”

Already in the Valley several cities, including Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen and Edinburg have bike-sharing programs of some kind. Garza said so far about eight or 10 cities have shown interest in the new Valley-wide Lime service.

So what about those electric scooters?

“I didn’t want to mention that, but this company also has the capability for electric bicycles, electrical-assist bicycles and scooters,” he told the LRGVDC board, and many of the amused members insisted they are ready for scooters. “If you go to Austin or San Antonio you see this area because they’re an efficient, fun mode … but we communicated very clearly with them that we’re definitely going to let that organically grow.

“I don’t know if we’re ready for scooters, but we may be one day.”

More Information

Lime bike-share facts

Founded as LimeBike in January 2017 First location was University of North Carolina-Greensboro In May announced it was rebranding as Lime and partner with Segway to produce new electric scooters

What are their bikes like?

Lime uses green-colored commuter bikes All bikes equipped with GPS units and 3G connectivity Bikes have a front basket, a solar panel, and a smart lock Mobile app available in App Store and Google Play is used to locate nearby

bicycles and scan a QR code to unlock Rides cost $1 for every 30 minutes of use

Where is Lime riding?

Around 50 U.S. cities 20 U.S. college campuses, including UT-Austin Switzerland, Germany, France and Spain

Lime’s Texas cities

Arlington, Austin, Dallas, Plano Source: Wikipedia