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Opinion: Is Lime's juice worth the squeeze?

North Shore's new e-bike share program is a bit pricey, but also a lot of fun
Lime Bike City of North Vancouver web
City of North Vancouver staff, Lime operators and members of the media go for a tour on the Spirit Trail, July 27 2021.

You’ve probably seen them by now. Rows of red and green Lime e-bikes lined up on sidewalks across the North Shore

All three North Shore Municipalities have a two-year agreement with the company to allow 200 of the electric assist bikes on their streets for a two-year pilot project. It’s their goal to add a new car-free option for getting around the North Shore.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s a pretty user-friendly experience to find where the bikes are parked in their “groves,” book one and head out for a spin. When you’re done, you return it to any of the groves around the North Shore.

Those are the basics. But how about the ride?

When the electric assist kicks in, it feels a bit like you’re on a horse that’s got a little more giddyup than you were expecting, or maybe you suddenly find strength in your legs you didn’t know you had.

On a recent media tour, we didn’t have any particularly steep hills to climb, but it’s clear from even smaller ascents that both lactic acid and battery acid can help get you get to the same place – only one will do it without causing you to break a sweat. It really eliminates any excuses about who “can” get around on two wheels, even in a district built on the side of a mountain.

I also noticed on some stretches through the Shipyards that a governor kicks in and limits your speed to about 15 kilometres per hour, no matter how hard you pedal. It’s a safety feature programed right into the bikes when their GPS beacons detect they’ve entered areas with high pedestrian traffic. Someone’s going to have to explain to me why this technology is being deployed on 70-pound e-bikes bikes before it is being deployed on 3,000-pound cars.

Notably, the bikes don’t come with helmets, which is odd because they’re required by law in B.C. The official line from the city is that they “expect” Lime to educate users about the law and make sure they comply. If that’s the case, it’s hard to see how these are a choice for anyone in a moment of spontaneity, unless they happen to carry a helmet with them every time they’re out. Or it could mean they take their chances and risk both a ticket and the contents of their noggin at the same time. In either case, it underscores the need for safe bicycle infrastructure wherever these things go.

Pricey but fun

I confess, I’m a little hung up on the price. It starts at $1 to unlock, and then 30 cents per minute. It’s cheaper than a car share but not by a lot, and it’s more expensive than most transit trips. I’m sure Lime has crunched the numbers and found what makes sense for their target market, but I worry it’s too high to woo in potential users.

The price, though, has to be considered in context. We finished our Lime bike tour at Keith Road, just north of Moodyville Park, about $4.50 from the foot of Lonsdale. It was around 3 p.m. and the lineup for the Ironworkers was already backed up to Queensbury. The congestion would be far worse when I was to join the car parade about an hour later. Would I pay 30 cents a minute to bypass that headache? Just show me where I sign.

I also I can’t help but think about the province being blanketed in forest fire smoke, entire towns being wiped out by wildfires, and people dying in their apartments when the temperature goes above 40 C. About a third of our carbon emissions come from tailpipes, and there is a lot at stake if we aren’t willing to shift our carbon habits.

Plus, unlike a car share or the bus – and I cannot stress this enough – riding an e-bike is fun.

Forward momentum

I see the Lime pilot’s greatest potential as a transportation gateway drug – persuading folks who just needed to see how much fun it is before making the investment in their own e-bike.

The city will be watching to see if Lime bikes are a catalyst for shifting people’s mode of transport from other means to bikes. No doubt, Lime will be judging the success of the pilot by whether it is financially viable. I’ll be rooting for them both.

On my way back to the office, just as I started huffing and puffing on a heavy, non-electric cruiser bike up the Spirit Trail’s Harbourside West Overpass, I heard the voice of an older woman calling out from behind me: “on your left.” She hummed past me, smiling with aplomb, on her own e-bike. She’s got it figured out. With Lime, plenty of other folks could soon too.

Much like some adult beverages, I think the North Shore is going to be all the better with a slice of Lime.