WALTHAM, MA — The green, dockless LimeBike are here. You’ve probably seen them on street corners or at along the Charles River Greenway or out near Bentley hanging out by the side of the path. They’re part of a "dockless" bikeshare program that some 15 communities nearby, including Waltham opted into late last year.
So far, nine of the other communities have officially launched the dockless bike shares, including Newton, Watertown and Arlington. While LimeBike is still waiting on Waltham City officials to sit down with them and go over a plan specific to the Watch City before bringing in a couple hundred bikes officially, unofficially the bikes are here because, well, people have ridden them into Waltham from neighboring communities.
"Bikes do not respect municipal borders. We’re seeing dozen of trips per day and we haven’t even launched yet," said Scott Mullens a local LimeBike spokesperson. "This is clearly something Waltham is excited about and will get a lot of great use out of."
Users download an app that shows them where bikes are, then you pay around $1 for a 30 minute ride. Unlike the BlueBikes in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, there’s no docking station you have to take your bike to at the end of your ride, which means you pull over and leave the bike next to a path when you’re done.
Because they’re dockless, they can be left anywhere, but LimeBike asks users to be courteous, not blocking parking or sidewalks. If a bike is not used within two days, a van comes to claim the bike.
‘Doesn’t cost the city anything’
LimeBikes touts the flexibility of their bike system and the cost. Trips cost around $1 for 30 minutes, and they work with local low income housing officials to connect with underserved populations to bring the cost down to as low as a nickle for a 30 minute ride, he said.
"We’re not here to make a buck with a bike, we’re here to bring a robust transit solution," said Mullins.
The MAPC, which shepherded the RFP process paid for the system. LimeBikes is privately owned and funded and they put all the tech on the bike.
"It doesn’t cost the city anything. And the best part is we share all of our trip data…. every city has a bike plan, including Waltham. All we’re asking is that they bring it out dust it off and build the infrastructure so people feel safe. Working together we can make a big shift in mode. That’s what this is all about," he said.
‘We’re ready to roll’
Nine of 15 area communities, including Watertown, Belmont and Newton, now participate in a Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) program that’s brought thousands of dockless bikes to the area.
LimeBikes submitted an RFP last fall, it was due in December and they got word in January from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council that they won. The group began rolling out bikes in the communities in April.
"This has been a long time coming," said Mullens. "We’re ready to roll."
So what’s the hitch? Well, that’s still up in the air.
Councilor Robert Logan was the one who saw the Metropolitan Area Planning Council was pulling together an area program for communities that weren’t already using the BlueBike program (Cambridge, Brookline and Boston have exclusive contracts there). Waltham wasn’t originally listed so he brought in a resolution before the City Council and got the Watch City on the list. But now Logan said he’s not sure what the next steps are.
"I’m actually trying to get a little info myself. I’m having a bit of trouble finding out how the city is connected," Logan told Patch Friday. He reached out to the planning director who suggested he contact the mayor, which he did Thursday. But no word back yet he said.
Neither the mayor nor the planning director did not immediately return requests for comment late Friday night. (It’s Friday night). When they do respond, we’ll update this post.
"I want to make sure something is in place soon. Any time you roll out a new program, there’s going to be glitches but on the whole I think it will go well. We need to do as much as we can to reduce our reliance on motor vehicles," said Logan.
And yes, Logan’s already taken a bike for a test drive.
"Even though we haven’t rolled it out here and we’re already seeing so many bikes moving around the city, it shows the popularity of it," he said. "It’s easy. It’s cheap and very convenient. Hopefully in the long run it will be able to reduce traffic and pollution."
Curious and want a couple free credits? Mullens says just plug in "LIMELAUNCH" to earn 5 trip credits.
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Photos by Jenna Fisher/Patch Staff. Fisher can be reached at Jenna.Fisher@patch.com or by calling 617-942-0474. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@ReporterJenna).