Charleston’s bike-share system will get a new operator next month, when international mobility company Lime takes over the operation of the city’s network of low-cost rental bikes.
Under Lime’s management, the system will have a new look and feel, with all-new bikes and a refreshed network that will likely expand into West Ashley — and farther, in the future.
With the contract running out on the initial run of the city’s Holy Spokes bike-share network, the city has been vetting potential vendors since September. (The service’s initial provider, locally based Gotcha, has since been acquired by another mobility company.) Six initial bids were submitted, with Texas-based Blue Duck Express and Lime eventually getting called in for demonstrations.
According to council reports last week by Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings, Lime is scouting potential dock locations across the city with an eye on a “seamless transition” in the coming weeks. Locations and exact details are still up in the air.
One big change that is confirmed is that the new service will include pedal-assisted bike-share bikes. Evolutions in battery technology and bike-share adoption have prompted innovations that make it easier for pedestrians to hop on a new bike and get rolling.
Lime’s new pedal assist bikes provide limited electric power to complement a rider’s pedal power, but do not have a direct throttle that send power to wheels.
As a company, Lime was one of the early companies involved in the electric scooter-rental frenzy that swept across the U.S. a few years ago.
But Lime is only bringing bikes to Charleston, no scooters.
A prototype presented to city leaders “looks very similar to what is out there now,” Seekings told council colleagues last week. A rendering provided to City Paper shows the familiar Holy Spokes blue with accents of Lime’s signature green.
As City Paper reported in October, the new-look bike-share service could also include bikes in West Ashley, Daniel Island and James Island, per the city’s original request for proposals (RFP), but details are TBD.
Katie Zimmerman, Charleston Moves executive director, said she didn’t have any impressions of Lime’s work so far to get up and running. But residents should expect widespread and far-reaching service regardless of the service provider.
“I am expecting them to set up across the city, not just the peninsula, and do so in a way that ensures equitable access, including a low-income option,” she told the City Paper Monday in a text message.
Providers are also required to maintain an app-based system that allows users to check out bikes, similar to how Holy Spokes currently operates, according to the city RFP.
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