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Bellevue launches all electric bikeshare program

Lime E bikes parked in a bikeshare parking stall in Bellevue. (City of Bellevue)

Bikeshare company Lime started in Seattle one year ago, and has slowly expanded toward the Eastside through Bothell, Mercer Island, and now — Bellevue.

“If you want to start a trip in Bellevue and ride the 520 bridge across the lake to Seattle, you are welcome and encouraged to do so, and vice versa,” said Andreas Piller with the City of Bellevue’s transportation department.

Lime launched in Bellevue on July 31. Despite extending the application period and notifying other bikeshare companies, Lime (formerly called Limebike) was the only company to apply in Bellevue.

“In just one year, Seattleites have embraced Lime by taking over 1 million rides, prompting the team to look at expansion opportunities,” said Lime’s Seattle-area General Manager Isaac Gross. “Bellevue asked us to apply for their pilot program, and after speaking with the city we agreed to partner on an exclusive one-year pilot using e-bikes.”

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“Lime will initially manage Bellevue operations from Seattle, but plans to open an Eastside operations center within the next three months,” he said. “We have discussed this issue with both cities with the understanding that some people will ride bikes across the bridge. Ultimately, both cities are comfortable with different bikes from different cities moving back and forth since the bikes increase mobility options for their residents.”

Lime says it plans to bring its bikeshare services to additional Eastside communities in the near future.

Bellevue bikeshare pilot

Just like Seattle’s bikeshare program, Bellevue’s features stationless bikes — you pick them up and drop them off almost anywhere. Unlike Seattle, Bellevue’s program only allows electric bikes.

Lime launched 50 e-bikes in Bellevue. It will add up to 100 by the end of the week. The company will be allowed to operate 400 in Bellevue during a trial period. If Lime can demonstrate it can comply with Bellevue’s rules (distribution, all-electric, preferred parking) then it will be allowed to add 100 more bikes every four consecutive weeks. Piller estimates that the company could add up to 1,200 bikes by July 2019.

“We wanted to make bikeshare an accessible transportation option to the widest variety of people that we could,” Piller said of the all-electric bikeshare program. “And recognizing that we have some significant hills in Bellevue, it may be challenging for many folks to ride a standard pedal bikeshare bike up some of those hills.”

“As the fleet grows, if the fleet grows, we will be considering when and how many pedal bikes to allow to be introduced during the pilot period as well,” he said.

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Bellevue requires Lime to “rebalance” its bikes each night – distributing them to the city’s service centers. It’s among a handful of rules for the bikeshare company. The city will further look areas where bikeshare rides could be prohibited. Bellevue is also implementing a bikeshare parking program from the start — shaded boxes and other areas to indicate where to park the bikes.

“We have permit conditions that establish where you are legally allowed to leave the bikes — on pavement, out of the way so it is not blocking walkways, travel lanes, loading zones, bus stops … ” Piller said. “The intent of the preferred parking areas, bike hubs, these are places where we would like to see people parking their bikes if it’s nearby and convenient to them … Lime will be implementing certain incentives and reward systems for people who do leave their bikes in these locations.”

“The other thing we are doing, that is not available at this point but coming soon, is designating city parks as no-parking areas … so if a user tries to park a bikeshare bicycle inside the park boundaries … you will not be able to lock the bicycle and end your trip. It will continue charging you until you remove the bike from the park.”

Prior to Limebike’s launch, local companies expressed support for the bikeshare plan; residents had mixed feelings, but many thought the idea sounded “awesome.”

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