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

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Spear |

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

thought.

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.

PHO­TOS BY KEVIN SPEAR/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

A Lime bike wait­ing near the Lynx bus sta­tion.

Di­rec­tions for how to use a Lime bike are printed in­side the front-mounted bas­ket.

KEVIN SPEAR/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

A trio of Lime bikes at Thorn­ton Park.

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