The first “dockless” bike-share program in Illinois is launching this weekend as LimeBike brings its service to Rockford.
LimeBike, a San Mateo, California startup with $132 million in venture funding, announced Friday that it’s expanding its bike-share program to Rockford in what will be the state’s first use of the popular, though somewhat controversial, service.
Dockless bikes are similar to a service like Chicago’s Divvy bikes, but they don’t require locking stations. LimeBikes have wheel locks that can be locked and unlocked via a smartphone app, and bikes are placed along sidewalks and other public places throughout a city.
The benefit of LimeBike is cost, both for the rider and the city that adopts the technology. A LimeBike costs $1 per 30-minte ride, and it’s just $.50 per half hour for students. Divvy, by comparison, costs $3 per 30-minute trip.
Docked bike programs can be pricey for cities, as officials must install stations for shared bikes to rest when not in use. Dockless bikes don’t require any investment from a city, and LimeBike says it covers all maintenance costs on its bikes.
However, the downsides of dockless bike-share programs are fairly predictable. Cluttered sidewalks, damaged bikes and theft have made the service difficult for some cities to incorporate. France shut down its first dockless bike-sharing program Gobee after 4 months, when 60 percent of its fleet “was destroyed, stolen or privatized.” Amsterdam has even gone as far as to ban dockless bikes all together.
It’s unclear if and when Chicago, which operates Divvy, plans to adopt dockless bike-sharing programs.
“The City is exploring their approach to dock-free smart bike sharing, and we’re very excited about the prospect of serving Chicago with an innovative mobility solution,” LimeBike marketing and communications lead Mary Caroline Pruitt said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the City, CDOT, and other community leaders to identify opportunities through which we can serve the whole community.”
Rockford officials, however, are excited about the potential for the new transportation options.
“We’re excited to offer a bike sharing program to the residents of our area,” Todd Cagnoni, Rockford city administrator, said in a statement. “We researched available options and found that LimeBike was a great fit for the community with a model that does not rely on a big capital investment from community partners.”
LimeBike is currently available in over 50 markets in the U.S., as well as Germany and Switzerland.