Lime Operations Manager John Ursy talks to Starkville officials about a bike-sharing program during Friday's work session. Starkville is considering a partnership with Lime to provide bicycles in the city. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
September 15, 2018 10:03:25 PM
Starkville aldermen will consider on Tuesday partnering with a bike-sharing company as a step for improving bicycle access in the city.
Aldermen heard a presentation from John Ursy, operations manager for Lime in Starkville -- a bike -- and scooter-sharing company that is in cities across the United States.
The company brought its bikes to Mississippi State University a few weeks ago, Ursy said, and is looking to expand on its on-campus success by spreading into the city. The program, if aldermen approve it, would be the first partnership between Lime and a Mississippi city and will come at no cost to Starkville.
Lime allows users to rent bicycles by using a mobile phone app, similar to what Uber clients use to order vehicle rides. The app charges as $1 fee to unlock a bike and 15 cents per minute. College students who register to use Lime with a .edu email address can use the bikes for a discounted rate of 50 cents per half-hour.
Ursy said Lime is different than some other bike-sharing programs because the bikes don't have to be docked at racks.
"Traditionally, when this industry started, it was a docked bike sharing where you'd have a bike rack where you'd put several of them in the city," Ursy said. "The limitations of that are it's expensive (and) it takes up more space because you've got this hub throughout the city. It worked well to introduce people to the concept, but it's inconvenient. You have to park your bike in a specific place, you can't leave it where you want to (and) it ends up giving poor coverage to everybody in the city."
Lime's bikes, Ursy said, can be left almost anywhere, and they have a lock that engages on the rear wheel when not in use. The company has staff in Starkville that monitors the area to move the bikes when needed, and he said the app can use GPS to mark certain areas can be marked as designated parking or no parking areas for the bikes. Lime can fine users who leave bikes in no parking areas.
"With the parking, that's obviously a big concern that a lot of cities have when we come in," Ursy said. "We don't want to see bike crowding sidewalks. We don't want to see it getting in the way of pedestrians. We don't want to see it getting in the way of parking spaces or really areas that are inappropriate."
Lime brought its bike sharing program to Mississippi State around Labor Day. Ursy said the program has already generated more than 2,000 rides in two weeks, with about 1,000 unique riders. Lime has 200 bikes and 50 deployment locations on campus.
Ursy said the company is looking to have 22 deployment locations, primarily along Main Street, University Drive and Russell Street, and about 100 bikes for the city. He said the number of bikes in Starkville will fluctuate as people ride onto campus and vice versa.
He also said the company can track each bike and can use that data, along with its staff on the ground, to monitor the heaviest use areas. For example, a heat map he showed of MSU's campus showed the bikes see the heaviest use around the Drill Field and the pedestrian bridge along University Drive.
Support for program
Mayor Lynn Spruill, who said she's excited about the program, said the data could be useful for Starkville as it leaders continue efforts to improve pedestrian and bike access throughout the city.
"If we have some of those good numbers ... then we can know where our bike paths are most important," she said. "That allows us to focus on those locations as we improve our biking and pedestrian access points. When we marry that with there the SMART bus goes, I think the fact that you can get on the (Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit System) bus and ride the bike to home or wherever."
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he also thinks the Lime bike-sharing program can help bridge gaps in the coverage of the SMART system and improve access to bus stops that are further away from certain areas.
He also said he thinks the city can keep an eye on where the bikes are most popular, or where they might get the most use.
"I think there are opportunities to see how can we help, just like we made the SMART buses successful, there's an opportunity to make bike sharing successful in Starkville," he said. "This is a great step. It costs us nothing, which I think is really fantastic -- as opposed to other bike shares that, looking at that in the past, (were not) an option for places like Starkville. The upfront infrastructure to be able to make that happen made it cost-prohibitive."
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