By Elaine Springer
By now Trumansburg residents and visitors have become accustomed to a little thing called a LimeBike Smart Pedal Bike. This spring blossomed with the green and yellow bikes dotting the roads in the Village of Trumansburg and Town of Ulysses, most notably along Main St. and the Black Diamond trailheads along Jacksonville Rd. Presumably, the bikes were from riders coming from Ithaca, which is directly accessed off road on the trail, and where Lime bikes launched in April. The GrassRoots Festival was soon approached by Lime about placement at the July festival, and it wasn’t long before the idea spiraled into a full-fledged rural pilot program. Consequently, the village board voted in May to accept a fleet of bikes as a pilot program throughout the summer.
LimeBike is indeed sweeping the nation, with placement in more than 80 cities and 25 college campuses, with Dryden’s Tompkins Cortland Community College being one of the latest. In June, prior to Porchfest, 20 bikes were delivered to the village, with twenty more delivered in time for GrassRoots. And the stats are impressive for the most rural of all the Lime Bike cities.
As of the Aug. 13 Trumansburg Village Board meeting, there have been 469 individual users, with 1,132 rides started in the general downtown area, racking up a total of 1,248 miles. The average trip is .4 miles, with a median time of 12 minutes. The bikes were particularly popular during GrassRoots, with 175 rides on Saturday alone, with more than half the rides after midnight, and 90 percent of the rides beginning at the Fairgrounds. There was no significant increase in bike use during the Trumansburg Fair, and LimeBike’s Operation Manager Jeff Goodmark is eager to see if the commencement of the school year will increase bike use, which is currently averaging 4-12 trips per day.
In spite of only one official complaint of a bike in a yard, which was swiftly removed, some consider LimeBike somewhat controversial as questions arise over who should maintain the bikes, and how the money from the rides benefits the local economy. When asked why the bikes can’t be serviced and maintained by local bike shops, the answer is simple. The bikes are custom made with custom parts and it is within the interest of Lime to house those parts and service area in one central location. The bikes are currently stored, maintained, and serviced in a space in Lansing.
Which brings us to another issue. How does money earned from rides boost the local economy, when Lime is headquartered in California? The answer is Lime employs a total of nine people in Tompkins County. Four of those employees are full-time, and Lime is a living wage employer. According to Ari Kissiloff, village resident and Lime operations employee, “Every person who works for Lime in Tompkins County lives in the area. Pays taxes here. The business rents space, buys supplies, charges bikes with NYSEG electricity. To say it’s all to CA is not embracing the entire picture.” In addition to this, Lime bikes give greater access to individuals who have a hard time getting to appointments, grocery shopping and the like, as it costs much less than public transportation or ride sharing. This is saying nothing to the environmental benefit, which in the long run reduces the economic burden on taxpayers and municipalities.
There is also the argument that access to Lime bikes is problematic for some who do not have a debit or credit card, a smart phone, or are otherwise economically challenged. According to the Lime website, “Lime is founded on the idea that mobility can be smart, equitable and fun.” When Lime launched in Tompkins County the only way to access a bike was through a smartphone app and linking a debit or credit card. Since then, Lime has partnered with Bike Walk Tompkins to launch the Lime Access program, “that increases access to Ithaca’s newest transportation system for people without smartphones, bank cards, or people who live in a low-income household. Lime Access users can text-to-unlock bikes, pay in cash, and receive 100 rides of up to 30 mins for $5,” according to the Bike Walk Tompkins website. The program is still somewhat limiting in providing 100 percent access to all potential riders in the county, particularly those who don’t live in Ithaca. Users still need a cell phone, funds, and a way to access their PayNearMe payment center. Hopefully, the future of LimeBike in Trumansburg will include in-person sign-ups and a PayNearMe center so everyone in the town and village can enjoy LimeBikes.
LimeBike numbers in Trumansburg have been reduced since GrassRoots to 21, with a potential reduction ahead of the winter season, although it is not anticipated that the bikes will go away completely. While the rides per day are currently low - Lime typically looks for a minimum of one trip per bike per day - it is possible back to school will increase rides. Also of note are the consistent routes the stats are showing. Of the presentation at the Aug. 13 meeting, Village Trustee Keith Hannon states, “One interesting thing noted was that, while there are only four to 12 trips per day post GrassRoots, a few of those routes are consistent which implies a few people might be relying on them to get to and from work each day. I don’t know how you PROVE that’s the case, but it’s probably not a huge leap to draw that conclusion or at least offer it as speculation.”
Improving access to our village, school, and local businesses seems like an excellent reason to keep LimeBike in Trumansburg, even if the number of bikes fluctuates seasonally. It will be interesting to follow the path and see how access further improves as this, and the Lime Access program grows and changes. There are several resources available to learn more including the Lime website at li.me, the Walk Bike Tompkins website, bikewalktompkins.org/lime-access/, and the LimeNation New York Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/1995257570802981/.
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