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Bikeshare company LimeBike eyes up Calgary expansion

The buzz around bike sharing is building in Calgary after an international company made a recent appearance in the city.

Coun. Druh Farrell commented on social media June 27 about San Francisco-based LimeBike – a bike/scooter share company that uses a dockless model.

“Coming soon to a cycle track near you?” Coun. Farrell tweeted, with a photo of a LimeBike presentation.

Farrell later confirmed to LiveWire Calgary that she did, in fact, meet with representatives from LimeBike.

“I asked if I could tweet about our meeting, and they said yes,” Farrell said.

“They’re excited about Calgary and interested in moving into the Calgary market.”

Farrell said what’s different about LimeBike compared to the city’s initial look at a bikeshare is the cost. Back in 2014, the city pegged bikeshare start-up capital costs at roughly $2.4 million, with an annual operating cost of $1 million. City council balked at the proposal, not wanting to fork over the cash for a project that was ultimately forecast for an annual loss.

“This model doesn’t require expensive infrastructure,” Farrell said of LimeBike.

The dockless bikeshare model is booming, with companies like LimeBike, Spin and Bird operating similarly to a carshare operation Calgarians know well – Car2Go. All three companies have recently secured further venture capital to fund expansion plans.

The company operates LimeBikes (regular bikes) Lime-E electric-assist bicycles and Lime-S electric scooters. The equipment can be left anywhere by a user and can be located and unlocked using the company’s smartphone app.

While the city currently allows electric bikes on city pathways, Alberta Transportation’s October 2017 Rules and Regulations Applying to Small Vehicles prohibits the use of electric scooters (platform-style with two wheels) on any roadway or sidewalk.

Spokespeople from LimeBike didn’t directly confirm the meeting with Farrell but told LiveWire Calgary they were interested in Canadian partners.

“Lime is excited to serve Canadian communities, and we look forward to working with key officials to bring our smart mobility solutions to Canada soon,” an email response read.

This was the only response to LiveWire despite several emails and phone calls for an interview.

Screen Shot of LimeBike job posting for Calgary.

What further reinforces LimeBike’s interest in the city is a job posting for a Calgary operations manager.

The dockless bikeshare model isn’t without controversy.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s online sister site, sfgate.com, earlier this year, the San Francisco city attorney sent cease-and-desist orders to LimeBike, Bird and Spin because of the numbers of riders using the electric bikes and scooters on sidewalks and also the number of abandoned bikes blocking other transportation corridors.

Other websites report dockless bikeshare problems in other cities, particularly with abandoned bikes cluttering streets.

And it appears Calgary isn’t the only city on LimeBike’s radar. The Globe and Mail reported Friday that LimeBike was courting Toronto politicans in a bid to expand their system to that city.