A bike share program that's already launched in many cities throughout the country is going to put 500 bicycles on the streets of Mobile, deploying them at the University of South Alabama and in Downtown Mobile. The announcement was made back in March and had to be approved by the Mobile City Council (it did, unanimously), but now LimeBike is about to go live, starting Wednesday, August 15th.
The concept is simple, and it's app-based. You find a bike on the app, you unlock it... somehow, and then ride it until you're done with it. When you're finished, you just leave it where it's at. No need to find a docking station, because there are none. The cost is $1 per half hour. which you've prepaid on the app. I've yet to try this, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it works.
I'm a fan of bike share in theory, but I'm also a little bit nervous about how this will work in Mobile. We're a city that's not got a lot of bike paths, and there's also the problem of too many people on bikes riding against traffic. That's just dangerous; and if we're going to make this work, a lot more Mobilians need to understand that bikes are required to follow the rules of the road (i.e., you ride with traffic, not against it).
There are problems with the bike share program. In Dallas, where they have 20,000 bikes on the street, bikes that can be left anywhere can become a real nuisance in a hurry.
And of course, there will be those who decide to have a little fun with the bikes...
So we'll have to see how it goes, and if some additional regulation will be needed to make the program more effective. The bikes don't come with helmets (nor would we want to use a helmet a stranger has used... ewww!), so you need to think about that. Either bring your own or be careful where you ride.
And if you're wondering what this is costing taxpayers, the short answer is... nothing. All LimeBike wants is permission to operate, and they got that a couple of months ago. Mobile will be the first Alabama city in which they operate.
Most people I've talked to are pretty sure people will get killed, or the bikes will get stolen, or something. But there's only one way to find out, and we're about to....