100’s of LimeBikes dumped on the streets of Brent

Try LimeBike for free. To claim, use this link to download the app

Lime disease outbreak has hit Brent, though not quite an outbreak of Lyme disease carrying ticks. Instead Brent has an outbreak of LimeBikes; garish, acid-green, electric, internet-connected bikes that have taken over our local pavements.

As with most infections they spread if left untreated; bike-sharing startups are booming around the world and are being valued at billions. 

Mum’s with buggies and senior citizens on mobility scooters must now compete for pavement space as stray LimeBikes are abandoned in mass. These unused shared-bikes have become obstacles for pedestrians using pavements. 

LimeBike announced on Twitter of their arrival in Brent

How do the electric bikes work?

  • To operate these GPS tracked internet-connected bikes (yes your location is being tracked by a company based in San Francisco, which should be a concern) you have to download the LimeBike smartphone app.
  • Open the app to find a bike nearest to you, there are hundreds scattered across Brent. The bikes themselves are unmissable, they have disfigured the streets of Brent with their acid-green hue.
  • You unlock the bike by scanning the QR code and then you are free to ride to your destination and then leave it anywhere.
  • The bikes are ‘dockless’ so you don’t have to leave them in a docking station, unlike the Boris Bikes operated by Transport for London which are not well served in north west London. 

LimeBike costs £1 to unlock and then £0.15 per minute. There is also a subscription rate called LimePrime which costs £29.95 per month and offers bulk riding credit. 

A row of LimBikes on a pavement, disorderly organised
LimeBikes cluttering a pavement. Image credit: @sean_browne

Where are the electric bikes available?

LimeBike are available everywhere in Brent, the Council have given the green light for LimeBike to dump hundreds of green bikes across the borough, without a public consultation.

LimeBike gets blessings from Brent Council

Brent Council has a reputation of making decisions on our behalf and skirting around proper consultation. So it’s no surprise that transport consultant missionaries working for the GLA / Mayor’s Office have duped Brent Council to be one of the first London boroughs to widely adopt LimeBike. Yes, that effectively means residents in Brent are being used as guinea pigs in this social transport experiment.

The local authority also seem to be throwing safety aside because the LimeBike scheme encourages residents to ride bikes without helmets. None of the internet-connected electric bikes come with helmets so there is a risk of injury when using this service. 

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of the council, said:

We’re proud to be one of the first Boroughs in London to be able to offer our residents the opportunity to access Lime’s new, innovative, and environmentally friendly service. Electric bikes are a convenient and easy way to get around – helping more people out of cars and onto bikes. We hope they will play an important role in reducing the environmental impact of many journeys across the Borough.”

Brent Council press release

You can read more from Brent Council’s announcement which conveniently excludes that residents who use the bike will be tracked and that no helmet is provided, Dockless electric-assist bikes cycle to Brent.

LimeBikes cluttering a pavement outside Kilburn Tube station.
LimeBikes outside Kilburn Tube station. Image credit: @LifeInKilburn

Other local authorities battle with bike sharing apps

Similar bike sharing schemes such as Obike (the bright yellow bikes) trialed in various boroughs across London including Wandsworth, where hundreds of bikes were removed by Wandsworth Council describing them as the yellow plague. 

The FT reported that, Wandsworth council said it had started removing the bikes since they first appeared, saying that “masses” of the bikes were found outside Clapham Junction train station, causing problems for pedestrians and especially for people in wheelchairs and parents with buggies.

Wandsworth council’s transport spokesman, Jonathan Cook said: “We all want to encourage cycling and other sustainable forms of transport but it is rather naive to simply dump thousands of bicycles on London’s streets without any warning or discussion beforehand.

Privacy

Have Brent sold us out? At the core of LimeBikes are GPS tracking chips, so users of the services are tracked wherever they go. Advertisers then use the data to build a complete picture of your identity including your home, work and demographics. This data will help advertisers target you at precise moments with ads relevant to your lifestyle. Advertisers are particularly interested in the millennial consumers living in urban areas.

Lime and other companies are gathering masses of private location-based information and are selling it back to governments. Information is made accessible to governments in the form of an online dashboard where cities can track where residents choose to ride and where the bikes are congregating.

This use of personal data should concern residents as it leaves them vulnerable to hackers who could figure out the identity of users and their destinations including home / work addresses. Brent Council have no plans or budget to safeguard your data but they’re quick to jump on any new tech fad, this is irresponsible.

Has Brent Council run over its own foot? Already stretched Public Officers will be too busy to deal with fly-tipping because their time will be spent collecting electric bikes blocking up high street pavements, tube station entrances and bus stops. 

The argument in favour of LimeBikes

This bike scheme could offer residents an alternative and affordable way to navigate through Brent at highly-congested peak times. In theory, bike sharing can ease strained roads and public transport systems, especially for short journeys.

If a bike is lying around in a street it could also encourage people to pick it up and consider alternative modes of transport and a healthier lifestyle. Though it is delusional to think bike-sharing will reduce reliance on cars. That won’t happen in Brent, even if the borough is caked in LimeBikes.

A single LimeBike in Wembley Park.
A single LimeBike in Wembley Park. Image credit: @ldn_tube

Out-cry from Brent residents  

Residents from Brent have taken to Twitter to voice their frustrations 

Crime-Bike

Some cities have reported shoplifters stealing from convenience stores and using shared-bikes to getaway. LimeBike also operate a shared scooter service in some cities and there have been reports of people being hit by the scooters. There are trends of shared-bikes being stolen and spray painted different colours and modified. How long will it be before LimeBikes are seen floating in the river Brent?

A Limebike on Chalkhill Road
A Limebike on Chalkhill Road

So is the Lime disease here to stay or will Brent residents get sick and demand the authority immunise the dockless bikes from our streets or regulate them at least?

For some in 2019 shared-biking will boom with short-distance and environmentally friendly transportation being a positive; for others it will be a plague and will continue to cause frustrations and misery.

Try LimeBike for free. To claim, use this link to download the app