WHEELS OF FORTUNE: Aurora rolling with bike share service


AURORA | The city is finally making some wheel progress.

If you frequent Aurora’s cycling hot spots, you might notice a new trend this week: green bikes with yellow trim and hulking baskets on the front.

On Oct 10, the citrus-colored bikes could be found leaning against a bus stop near Peoria Street and East Colfax Avenue and plopped in a couple of lawns near Virginia Court Park.

City officials are hopeful cyclists cruising on the green and yellow rides will become a common sight around town.

LimeBike launched in Aurora last week with 250 bikes for rent at busy spots throughout the city, marking the first city-approved bike share company to offer their service in Aurora. The California-based company also offers their bikes in several other states, but the Aurora program is their first foray into the Colorado market.

The city began accepting applications from privately-run bike share programs early this month and LimeBike was the first to have their application approved. City spokeswoman Julie Patterson said another company, Ofo, had its permit approved Oct. 11.

A spokesperson for Ofo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In general, bike shares allow people to rent a bike for a short ride at a low cost — with LimeBike, it costs $1 for the first 30 minutes. 

But many of the systems require cyclists to pick their bike up at a designated rack, or “dock,” and drop them either at the same spot or another designated dock. That’s how Denver’s B-cycle program works.

LimeBike is different in that it’s dockless. Bikes are monitored by GPS, and cyclists can pick them up wherever they find one. The LimeBike cell phone app has a map showing where available bikes are, similar to Car2Go.

When a rider is done, they park the bike where they want — though the company asks that if you can’t leave it at a bike rack that you put it somewhere safe, like near a bus stop. Riders then disconnect and the bike’s internal lock kicks in, locking the back wheel in place until the next rider comes by.

For now, the company asks that riders don’t ride their bikes from Aurora into Denver or onto the Anschutz Medical Campus — two places LimeBike has yet to work out the sort of permitting deal they have with Aurora.  But Mary Caroline Pruitt, a spokeswoman for the company, said they hope to have those deals completed soon.

“While we don’t have timing specifics, we have reached out to Anschutz, and hope to bring LimeBike to its campuses in the future. We have also had positive discussions with the city of Denver, and look forward to continuing these collaborative conversations so that people throughout the greater Denver area can rely on LimeBike as their convenient, sustainable transportation option,” she said in an email.

Today, if you ride a LimeBike from Aurora into Denver you don’t incur an additional fee and the bike doesn’t suddenly lock or anything.  But Pruitt said the company asks customers not to ride out of the designated area — in this case the city of Aurora — and they will have a staffer come pick up the bike when it’s parked.  Those staffers are also tasked with making sure the bikes are distributed to the spots where they are popular and that they don’t stack up in spots where riders rarely pick them up.

“The bikes’ GPS location and mapping technology allows us to easily locate and redistribute any bikes moved out of network or parked improperly,” she said.

Tom Tobiassen, a longtime local cycling advocate, president of Bicycle Aurora, and current candidate for Aurora City Council, was on hand for last week’s unveiling of the bikes at northwest Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace.  He said he and other local bike enthusiast have long clamored for the city to get on board with  bike sharing services, but the need for a pricey docking system always made it too expensive.

With LimeBike and other dockless systems, that up-front cost to the city is gone, he said.

Patterson, the city spokeswoman, said the city didn’t pay anything to get LimeBike to launch here.

Instead, according to the city’s bike share rules, companies pay an annual fee of $2,500 if they plan to have 250 or fewer bikes in Aurora. The fee climbs to $10,000 annually for companies with 2,000 bikes or more.

Cesar A. Cardona, LimeBike’s city launcher, said he views the bikes as just one piece to a commuters’ complicated puzzle. While some people won’t want to ride all the way to work, snagging a bike for just $1 at a train stop or bus station could make those modes of public transit more viable for them.

“This bike will get you there,” he said.