In the LimeLight: Successes and Limitations of Notre Dame's LimeBikes

Author: O'Neil, Alison

The green flashes, the whirring wheels, the ice cream truck-style startup jingles: it’s hard to miss the LimeBikes scattered around campus and throughout the city. Students and community members use the LimeBike system, implemented just in time for the fall semester, with varying degrees of frequency. And, as with most other issues, everyone has an opinion.

“LimeBikes — though readily available, quite difficult to pedal,” said one sophomore who wished to remain anonymous. “They’re a great source of exercise, but I’d argue that the difficulty in pedaling makes the trip longer compared to other bikes.” The student reported feeling “woozy” from the effort of pedaling the bike and suggested, only half-jokingly, that the pedal resistance could be a company conspiracy. “The longer the trip, the more money they make.”

Luckily for LimeBike, most opinions are not so damning. Adam Moeller, student government’s director of community engagement and outreach, says that overall, student responses to the LimeBikes have been overwhelmingly positive. “The only problem I’ve had is that the app is kind of glitchy,” said Moeller, citing GPS problems. Moeller remains optimistic about this issue, however. “I think that might be a capacity thing that they could possibly improve on the app.”

Moeller is not the only student to report technical difficulties. Junior Katie Flood, for example, said that she could not unlock a bike when attempting to commute in the rain. Other students emphasize issues with locating the bikes. “I have used [LimeBikes] once or twice,” says junior John Kochevar. “It’s a neat idea, but I never seem to be able to find one when I really need it.”

For students interested in following the bikes’ progress on campus, student government plans to carry out a survey on LimeBikes in the upcoming months. Scholastic will follow the survey’s results as they come out.

Despite LimeBikes’ success on campus and in the surrounding community, not all South Bend residents have welcomed the bikes into their lives. In August, the South Bend Tribune reported that even as thousands of city residents were downloading the popular LimeBike app, people were stealing bike parts and even throwing entire bicycles into the river (specifically, the East Race Waterway). Fortunately, the level of LimeBike vandalism in South Bend has not surpassed that of other cities and, as of August, actually fell below the company’s vandalism estimates.

Though the city presents its challenges, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for LimeBike. The bikes have taken off across the country in locations as far-flung as Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco and Greensboro. The company, headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., plans to expand even further: September saw the introduction of LimeBikes in Imperial Beach, Calif. LimeBike even plans to send more bikes to South Bend, according to the Tribune, LimeBike wants to implement over 1,000 bikes by early September.

LimeBike’s website promotes a Silicon Valley brand of utopianism: a bright, sunny world in which photogenic young riders commute across clean and sustainable cities. Consumers will have to wait and see if LimeBike’s dream becomes a reality in South Bend.