Dockless electric bikes come to Calgary as Lime gears up city pilot project

Bike sharing will be a reality in Calgary starting this week as two companies received operating permits from the city. Lime will launch operations this week, while U-bicycle plans to start in spring 2019.

Calgarians will see shareable bikes on streets and pathways this week, with U-bicycle launching next spring

Lime, an American app-based bike sharing service, is expanding into Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Bike sharing will be a reality in Calgary starting this week as two companies shift into a citywide pilot.

The city says it will be giving out two operating permits: one to Lime, formerly known as LimeBike, and one to U-bicycle. Lime will launch operations this week, while U-bicycle plans to start in spring 2019.

Lime is an app-based rental service that many are comparing to Car2go. It will have a fleet of 375 electric pedal-assist bicycles, and the pilot will be funded and operated by the company — with costs to the city recovered by fees collected from the companies.

"Lime is very excited to be hitting the pavement in Calgary, the first Canadian city to launch Lime-E dockless electric bikes," said Scott Harvey, Lime's operations manager for Calgary, in a release. 

Scott Harvey is Lime's operations manager for Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"We have been energized by working with the city as they move forward on their commitment to reducing barriers for active modes of transportation and are looking forward to helping empower Calgarians with this greener, more efficient, and affordable transportation options."

How it works

Once users are signed up, bikes are unlocked by scanning a code, then riders are charged by the minute. Once done, the self-locking bikes can be left anywhere in the home area, available for another user.

A Lime spokesperson says this is the map for the winter home zone, but the area will expand to the rest of the city under normal operations. (Submitted by Global Public Affairs)

"Besides being implemented at no cost to the city, bike share will create jobs, promote mobility, and enhance tourism," said Coun. Evan Woolley in a release. 

"We've seen the success of Car2go and other 'disruptive' technologies. Bike share is another example of Calgary adopting bold new transportation methods. Our cycling infrastructure is in place and this pilot project will only complement it."

'100 per cent ready' for winter

Harvey said Lime has tested its e-bikes in northern U.S. markets, and he's confident the bikes are equipped to handle Calgary's winter storms.

"We had some winter weather back at the beginning of October. We had the opportunity to test the bike in that kind of slushy, wet, damp snow, and really, the bike came through with flying colours," he said.

Harvey said the company will pay special attention to battery life as temperatures drop but added he hasn't seen any problems in that regard so far.

"We feel that our product is 100 per cent ready and capable to take on the winter, and we also know that Calgary's really done a great job investing in bike infrastructure," he said.

Bikes are unlocked using an app, and then can be left anywhere in the home area. (Submitted by Lime)

The city says the e-bikes will initially be placed along "what are anticipated to be high utilization corridors," but will "occur as usership dictates" moving forward:

  • Stephen Avenue.
  • Eau Claire.
  • The river pathway system.
  • Along 17th Avenue south.
  • Mission.
  • Bridgeland.
  • Kensington.
  • Inglewood. 

CounDruh Farrell told CBC News in July she met with Lime company officials and was impressed by their presentation.

She says that unlike older systems, the app-based service doesn't need city investment or docks cluttering the street. Lime bike users can park anywhere — although some critics in the U.S. have raised concerns that bikes could stack up or clog sidewalks and walkways.

Tourism opportunities

Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, also said last July that a bike share would be good for residents and tourists alike.

"If you go to a lot of cities right now, particularly during the summertime, bike share is a really fantastic way to get around to see and explore a city," he said.

"Calgary really hasn't had that option readily available. You can still rent a bike, but that's a more involved sort of commitment, whereas a bike share is something you can sort of just pick up and do on the fly."

Applications for the second phase of the pilot will take place next spring. The city plans to take feedback from Calgarians on the first phase until 2020.

With files from Anis Heydari.