With several weeks of dockless bike share experience and examination under our belts, it seems like the right time to check in with some anecdotal observations and stories.
Funny one-off conversations:
I was parking a LimeBike near my home and someone was curiously watching me situate it and lock the rear tire. Finally, the lady leaned out of her car window and said "damn, you got here fast, I saw you over by the hospital (SLU/SSM)". It wasn't me, but it was the green/yellow bike she saw with some other nondescript white dude on it.
I just nodded my head in response but she persisted, congratulating me again for riding that fast. I knew at this point I had to set the record straight. I said, "that wasn't me, there is a new bike sharing program where there are 750+ bikes like these all over the city. You saw some other dude." She laughed, I laughed. We shared a sweet send off. "I'm gonna have to check that out" she said.
These bikes just might be helping us be better neighbors, talk more, bring more civility and drive common experiences. At a minimum, maybe just something positive for strangers to talk about.
The awkward time when I shoulda helped:
I was sitting in my car at the intersection of Grand and Magnolia and a young woman approached a bike in Tower Grove Park got on and tried to ride away but was stopped by the lock on the rear tire. She tried to jimmy the lock and quickly walked away with an embarrassed look on her face. If I was walking, I would have certainly helped her figure things out. But, from the car, I just kinda looked away to not make it look to her like I was watching her struggle.
Try to be patient with folks as they figure out how the system works. For many in St. Louis, this is the first time they've seen bike share, so it's new. If you're familiar with the process consider being kind and help people understand how to use these things if they appear to be struggling.
All walks of life appear to be using bike share...and they seem happy.
I have tried to talk to everyone I've seen riding or unlocking a bike...people seem happy on them and with them. I seem happy when I see them. They are a sign of goodwill, healthy living and an urban environment on the rise.
Their mere presence makes me feel good. And seeing them used by ALL of St. Louis (not just one age range or class or race) is even more heartwarming.
I'm been pleased with the racial breakdown anecdotally observed so far. It seems pretty representative of the overall population of St. Louis - 50:50 black:white.
They are everywhere!
The locations are pretty spread out, you find them all over in random places like in front of someone's home on an off-the-beaten-path street. But clusters are more common around transit stops, parks and tourist areas.
You can tell a lot about the last user based on where it was left. Many take the time to put them in the shade, or out of the way of pedestrians. Sometimes you know they are parked right up next to a house with the hopes that the person will be able to use it again tomorrow in the exact same spot.
I've seen very few annoyingly placed and in high winds a lot of them end up on the ground. But it seems quite democratic. And the Lime Bike and ofo employees routinely round them up and replace them in high use spots.
It's traceable and data based...again, very democratic.
Not confined to recreational uses
I've seen the most use around rush hour, and weekends. But, that's likely when I'm most observant. Thing is they are used at all hours. I went to a rock show the other night and people were using them after the show to get home well after midnight.
I see lot of people in what appears to be work clothes, so likely commuting to/from work. I've seen casual tooling around as well. I've seen uptake at one of my kid's schools. I briefly spoke to one of the students on a Lime Bike who said she doesn't live far from school and prefers not to ride the bus all the time and she can get home quicker by bike.
Not just cyclists or urban idealists using them:
I've come across people who look like they've not been on a bike in years (which is kinda sweet in itself). This is a key observation. It's not just tourist-looking folks, or biking advocates...it's average Jane's and Joe's.
I talked to a dude riding a bike in circles around a Metro stop. I asked him what he thought. He echoed the positive responses heard to date. He claims he uses it all the time. I asked him why he was just riding around in a circle and he said he was waiting on a friend who gets off the train in a matter of minutes and he was holding the bike for him so he could use it to get home. Sweet.
I asked a couple in Tower Grove Park what they thought. They said it's great, because they don't have bikes, so it's a great way to ride and get exercise without the expense of buying a bike. They pointed out that you have to be careful about the bike you rent. One of them had a single speed the other an 8-speed. I didn't inspect the 8-speed to corroborate the claim, I've only seen 3-speeds and single speeds. But it's good advice to check the bikes if they are in a group if your preference is multiple speeds.
We asked a small family passing by with mom/dad on bike share and the kiddies on their personal bikes. "It's great, we'll definitely do it again".
Parks are an obvious spot to get your feet wet with the process.
Look and construction of the bikes:
I claimed early on the baskets may be a show-stopper for dudes. Not the case. I've seen heavy use by men who look like they are commuting to/from work. The baskets are filled with items and the familiar fluorescent vests common at work sites.
The colors are bright enough and the look is unique enough to set them apart from personal bikes. It's hard to mistake them for anything else. The "ladies" style frame doesn't seem to be an emasculating issue either. Gender seems equally represented in our observations.
Any negativity yet?
So far, I've seen respectful and dignified use. There was one extremely dangerous scene I came across on South Grand where some idiot was riding against traffic with a maybe 18 month old in the basket. Dumb is dumb regardless of the vehicle of choice.
I haven't seen the alley thieves or metal scrappers loading up on them. But, I'd be lying if I'm not seasoned enough to know there are a lot of no-dignity idiots around here just waiting to destroy things for destruction's sake. It's in the back of my mind.
The only noticeable downside of the onset of bike share is the naysayers/haters that love to pipe up when good news happens.
People who live in the "subjective St. Louis", meaning the suburban cities outside of St. Louis LOVE trashing anything to do with the city. I suppose it helps justify why they live in such a staid place all the while keeping "problems" at an arms length. They chimed in again on the first week of bike share posting photos all over social media claiming "blacks" have taken over. Gangs are rounding them up and demanding that Like Bike and ofo "try" to get them back.
Then there's the familiar "this is why we can't have nice things" mantra. Little do they know if they moved here and got involved, they'd be part of the solution and not the problem. Some of them are straight up racist and hateful. Keep your mouth shut please and let us do our thing.
Here's some of the photo shopped commentary I saw come across our Twitter feeds:
The above is clearly photo shopped as is the following:
Since when did the Arch grounds look like this? The leaves on the trees hadn't even leafed out when this was posted. But hey, if there's a chance to make St. Louis look bad, there are those ready in the burbs to jump on the opportunity.
Are they cluttering up the landscape?
When we have high wind events, many of the bikes get blown over and it can look kind of rough, but the employees and people seem to be righting the situations pretty quickly.
I've seen a couple knuckleheads knock bikes over just to look hard. That's gonna happen anywhere, but it's not been a routine occurrence.
But hey, I don't want to leave you on a negative note...this program has been great so far. I'm overwhelmed with positivity when thinking of these new bikes.
And, the news gets even better when you read about Lime Bike's program to provide access to low-income riders.
How does a nickel a ride sound? Well you could qualify.
From Lime Bike's website:
So there you have it, we'll keep using and watching bike share mature in the Gateway City.
Cheers to all those who worked hard to get this in place for all to benefit.