Thursday, August 16, 2018


I was introduced to Lime Bikes by my wife, who knows a thing or two about conservation and public transit. I have avoided learning a lot about my city's mass transit by adopting a bicycle of my own. If you are unfamiliar with Lime Bikes or other ride-sharing opportunities, you should know that these are pedal-powered conveyances used by citizens of towns across this great land of ours to get around. You use an app on your smart device to log into the system that allows you to borrow one of these bikes for a dollar, and then charges you another dollar for each half hour that you ride. Pretty cheap if you're willing to do the pedaling. For those less pedal-inclined, there are electric bikes and scooters as alternatives.
Gosh, what a great, forward-thinking solution to urban commuting. Except when it doesn't work. Like when dozens of trips terminate at one place, like a BART station. In a perfect model of this Utopian system, there would be dozens of folks coming off the next morning's BART trains, eager to scoop up those same bikes and roll them on to their next destination. Distribution of all of this transport should take care of itself.
Except for when it doesn't. Users who go online to discover the nearest bike to them find out that they are still in a heap where there were dropped by the exodus the night before. The same thing happens with the scooters and electric bikes. They tend to pile up in central locations. And in Oakland, some of the less-civic-minded folks have made a sport of tossing the scooters into Lake Merritt, where they tend to do even less good than cluttering up the mass transit stations.
Which made my question to my wife, upon hearing about this new service, even more apt: Is it somebody's job to retrieve and redistribute all of those wayward machines? Could I get a job as a Lime Bike wrangler? I checked their employment opportunities, and found that being a "local route driver" was the thing I had hoped to find. It brought back memories of my youth, when bad kids used to sneak into our neighborhood under cover of darkness and take anyone's bike that was foolish enough to leave them outside in the yard or in the driveway overnight. The next day, that bike would be missing, and a search would ensue until it was found, usually much the worse for wear, sometimes in an irrigation ditch, but the lesson was learned: Don't leave your bike unattended, or it will be "ditched." Which may be the reason they are all painted green.

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