Lime bikes hit the city’s streets
We go for a test ride on the bicycles with electric-assist pedals that are bursting onto the Orlando street scene
The electric-assisted bicycles bursting onto Orlando’s street scene are battery-powered antiperspirant on two wheels. That’s what the vendor, Lime, is marketing as for why anybody would want to pay $1 to unlock and 15 cents a minute to ride one.
“The bikes’ electric assist gives riders the extra push they need to get where they’re going without breaking a sweat,” said Jayson Cox, Lime’s operations manager in Orlando. Previously limited to serving South Florida, the com-
pany distributed 500 of the electric models in the core of Orlando late last month.
Yep, I found that a Lime bike doesn’t pedal itself, but you hardly notice you are pedaling it -- even up a hill.
Until last week, I had never ridden a ride-share bike of any vendor, green, orange or other. I do ride most days on my own bike in downtown Orlando to work, meetings, supermarket and you get the idea.
Sweat isn’t a thing with loose, fast-dry clothes. But curiosity about electrified cycling was a siren for downloading the vendor’s app and inputting a credit card.
Out of my home I went, walking west as the app’s map was speckled with little lime slices showing where GPS-equipped bikes -- Lime doesn’t employ permanent bike racks -- were parked and ready.
There was a trio of them on a sidewalk by the Thornton Park fountain. I spotted their vivid-lime skin from 1,000 feet away and felt a mental wince: “Do I want to be seen on one?”
The app focused my phone’s camera on a bike fender’s QR barcode.
An instant later, a wheel lock thwacked open and the bike chimed dings and dongs that apparently conveyed “hop on.”
Not yet. The seat needed raising. While doing so, a man crossing the street to his car asked if the ride was electric. “Yes.” “That’s cheating,” he said. “Agreed, I guess,” I
I asked a woman walking by, Tina Hoang, what she thought of electric-assisted bikes.
“Riding a bike isn’t that hard,” she said.
The electric boost occurs with pedaling. A little pressure on the pedals does nothing. But with just a bit more exertion comes a surge neither subtle nor overwhelming, but rewarding.
What also becomes evident is the bike’s heaviness: 70.77 pounds. In an era when the Spandex crowd hunches over bicycles lighter than a bottle of water, a Lime is titanic.
The Lime guy was right about the extra push. It took little effort – maybe half as much pedal power as you might think would be needed – to travel effortlessly along Central Boulevard.
But it also soon became clear that a Lime is not going to keep up with traffic. At 14.8 mph, the electric motor takes a nap. If you want to go faster, you better have Lance Armstrong’s performanceenhanced pistons.
I steered my Lime into the Sentinel’s elevator, to the newsroom and through its aisles, batting down more than a few plastic trash bins, and asking colleagues for a one-word critique. Green. Fabulous. Laughter (actually laughing). Bulky. Wicked witch. E.T. Doesn’t help my glutes. I offered test rides. “Holy crappers,” said one reporter, when the electric-assist kicked in.
Another yelped an fbomb. I took the bike outside and parked it next to a rack of Juice bikes, the orangecolored, non-electric models that have been available from another vendor in Orlando for a couple of years.
With a thumb push on the red knob of the bike lock, it thwacked like a steel fist around the wheel and the Lime chimed “see you” in dings and dongs.
The “Ride History” on my phone app said I rode for 53 minutes, burned 62 calories and, inexplicably, went “0” miles.
The bill: $7.95, which included a $1 discount – for what, I don’t know.
That bike was gone by the time I headed home, and I walked to the Lynx bus station for another.
I felt like a sitting duck in Orange Avenue traffic, not able to go faster than 14.8 mph.
Central Boulevard is blessedly more bikefriendly. I parked on the sidewalk at Publix near Lake Eola, where a herd of other electric Limes was waiting.
With groceries jouncing in the front-mounted, metal basket of my third Lime of the day, I arrived at home right at dark. The bike’s lights are pretty good.
Lime bills its bikes as “dockless” but is a little vague on where to leave them.
Info printed inside the basket says “Don’t park in the middle of sidewalk.”
The app urges riders not to park at “inappropriate” locations but “properly” at “designated” spots, with little further clarity.
So I designated the front edge of my driveway just off the sidewalk as a bikefriendly, parking zone.
The bike was still there at daybreak but not much longer.
Rules and attitudes for electric-assist bikes are far from settled in Central Florida and the nation, said Becky Afonso, executive director of the Florida Bicycle Association.
“We’re promoting more people on bicycles and we know that this technology opens the door for a lot of people to consider bicycling for commuting and not just recreation,” Afonso said.
But as different cities and other entities have different rules for the cycles, so, too, are there different kinds of electric cycles: slow versions, faster ones and those with no pedals – just a throttle.
And, as the rental models of pedal-assist bikes have become more available, there isn’t a lot of consensus for how to behave with one, she said.
“It is, for lack of a better term, a free-for-all,” Afonso said. “They are leaving the bikes on the sidewalks and wherever they want to leave them.”
A few days after my ride, a
cluster of bikes were left a few houses away from mine on the grassy median and in the sidewalk.
Orange and Seminole counties confirmed that motorized vehicles, including electric-assist bikes, are prohibited from their paved trails – like the West Orange Trail and the Cross Seminole Trail. Volusia allows them.
The University of Central Florida doesn’t want them on campus sidewalks or other paved paths.
But the city of Orlando recently amended its codes to specifically permit cycling, including electric-assist, on sidewalks.
I paid $13.50 for Lime’s electrifying, sweat-free experience, which I definitely will turn in as a reporting expense.
Would I do it again at my cost? I can see that happening if I’m sightseeing or goofing off and think of the meter running as the price of entertainment.
A Lime bike waiting near the Lynx bus station.
Directions for how to use a Lime bike are printed inside the front-mounted basket.
A trio of Lime bikes at Thornton Park.