ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca residents may start seeing a lot more green around town, and not just because it’s Spring. A fleet of lime green bicycles will soon be available for local residents to rent as part of a new bike-share system.
Bike Walk Tompkins and the City of Ithaca are partnering with LimeBike to bring 200 bicycles to the city for a new dockless bike-share program launching in April.
Unlike some bikes-sharing systems in other cities, these bikes will not be fastened to clunky bike stations. They can be parked anywhere and will lock automatically until unlocked by someone who wants to rent one. The cost will be $1 per ride. For students with a valid .edu email address, it’s 50 cents per ride.
Bike Walk Tompkins, a program under Ithaca Carshare, has taken the lead on bringing a bike-share program to Ithaca as part their Blueprint for Better Bicycling program. A goal of the Blueprint for Better Bicyling is to remove barriers to bicycling and address the “I would bike if’s.” So, having a fleet of bikes readily available through the bike-share program is one way to make bicycles more accessible.
Victoria Armstrong, director of Bike Walk Tompkins, said they want to make Ithaca a better environment for cyclists.
“More people biking makes it a safer, more convenient mode of travel,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said Bike Walk Tompkins would like to double the amount of people who bicycle locally. Though it’s hard to measure exactly how many people bicycle, according to U.S. Census data, about 2 percent of people commute to work by bicycle in Ithaca. That figure does not account for how many people bicycle for shopping, going to school or other reasons.
The City of Ithaca with its surrounding hilly landscape may seem like a daunting place for beginning or casual cyclists, but there are a lot of places that are easy to commute to on the flat areas of Ithaca, such as grocery stores, other shopping and the Ithaca Farmers Market.
“Once you’re downtown or once you’re up on the hills, all your trips are within two miles or less with can easily be done in five or 10 minutes on a bike, about as much time as driving,” said Hector Chang, active transportation coordinator for Bike Walk Tompkins.
Armstrong and Chang researched a number of bike-share options and said they thought the bikes and company culture of LimeBike would be a good fit for Ithaca.
LimeBike offers different models, but Ithaca will use the eight-speed bicycles. They will come with adjustable seats that fit people up to 6-feet-6-inches tall. What makes a docking station unnecessary is an integrated wheel lock with GPS and cellular connection. When not in use, the bike locks. The technology allows users to find and unlock bicycles with a smartphone app. However, if someone wants to use the bike and does not have a smartphone, they are configuring a way to do that.
The bikes also have solid foam tires, so no flats.
LimeBike launched in June 2017 and is headquartered in California, according to their website. Their bikes can be found in North Carolina, Florida, Seattle, Dallas and several cities in California.
Working with LimeBike does not cost the city anything. The bikes will be parked in different locations around Ithaca, and staff from LimeBike will maintain them and make sure they are well distributed. The app will help people locate bikes when they want to rent one.
Though there’s more work to do, Ithaca is already considered a bike friendly community and has been incorporating better infrastructure for bicycling, like bike lanes and covered bike racks. It has a bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists.
Armstrong said the recently completed Cayuga Waterfront Trail and Black Diamond Trail also “show how wonderful it can be when you’re on a really safe and comfortable route. So we’d like to see more safe and comfortable routes.”
Featured image provided by LimeBike.