Bike sharing is coming to the suburbs.
The town of Wake Forest has signed a two-year agreement that will allow bike-sharing company LimeBike to offer bicycles for rent inside the town limits.
Starting in June, LimeBike will place about 200 bright-green bikes in clusters in high-traffic areas around Wake Forest, including downtown, in parks and on greenways.
Large cities throughout the country have embraced bike-sharing programs, including in the Triangle. LimeBike, a California-based company, began a partnership with N.C. State Universitylast August to put 300 bikes around the Raleigh campus. The company agreed to expand its Raleigh footprint this spring with 200 additional bikes. Durham now has three bike-share programs: LimeBike, Spin and Ofo.
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Wake Forest, which has a population of more than 40,000, approached LimeBike because it wanted to "provide residents with a low-cost transportation" that came with "no cost to the town except some staff time," said Suzette Morales, the town's transportation planning manager.
To use a bike, riders must first download the free LimeBike app onto their smartphone. Then, using a QR code reader on their phone, riders scan the license plate on the bicycle, which unlocks the bike. Customers can then ride their bike to one destination or several.
Once riders reach their destination, they simply rescan the license plate to lock the bicycle in place and turn off the charging timer.
The cost to rent a LimeBike is low. A 30-minute ride costs $1, but college students can access a LimeBike at discounted rates — 50 cents per half-hour.
LimeBike uses a dock-free network that gives riders flexibility in picking up bikes wherever they are available and leaving them wherever the ride ends. However, LimeBike urges customers to be considerate by not leaving bikes on private property and not blocking pedestrian and wheelchair paths, driveways, crosswalks, loading zones and the like.
Already, some Wake Forest residents have hopped on a LimeBike.
On May 9, Wake Forest and two of its schools, Heritage Elementary and Heritage Middle, celebrated National Bike to School Day by encouraging students to bike to school along Smith Creek Greenway.
"LimeBike was there," Morales said. "Parents and our volunteers rode the LimeBikes alongside the students from the soccer center to the school using the greenway."
"So far, all positive feedback about LimeBike coming to the area," Morales said.
As part of its agreement with the town, LimeBike will maintain a presence in Wake Forest to ensure any needed service is prompt and expeditious.
In an effort to limit vandalism and prevent theft, each bike’s GPS system will allow LimeBike to keep track of every bike at all times. Also, the bikes are equipped with an alarm system that will sound an alert if someone tries to move the bike without proper access.
And would-be thieves, take note: All LimeBike parts are proprietary, which means that if someone takes a wheel or another part off a LimeBike, it will not fit into any other bike model.
Wake Forest plans to officially launch the LimeBike program as part of National Trails Day on Saturday, June 2, at E. Carroll Joyner Park, 701 Harris Road.