By Barbara Taormina
Since they have arrived in Malden, Lime Bikes have been on 80,000 trips and logged nearly 70,000 miles.
Scott Mullen, a director of Lime’s Northeast division, met with the City Council recently to talk about the bike-sharing system. Malden is one of 16 communities that has a fleet of “dockless” bikes available to riders thanks to a regional contract with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Riders use an app on their cellphones to unlock bikes, which cost a $1 access fee plus a small fee based on time or mileage.
“Malden has a great bike infrastructure and a great bike culture,” Mullen told councillors. Malden was the only community in the regional MAPC program to hit its projected number of rides.
Mullen described Lime as a mobility company that eases traffic on roadways, reduces carbon emissions and boosts public health. He stressed that Lime is a young company that continually monitors operations to work out any kinks and to offer new services that match a community’s needs.
Councillors praised the program but asked about bikes that were being left in different places and parts of the city. “The bikes fill a gap that’s needed, but they are also troublesome,” said Ward 7 Councillor Neal Anderson. “They are being left at intersections, bus stops and in the middle of sidewalks. That takes away from the positive aspects of the program.”
Mullen acknowledged that some riders leave the bikes in inconvenient and inappropriate spots. “Things do happen, and they are painful,” he said. But the company, which has a warehouse on Eastern Avenue, has foot patrols to retrieve bikes left in out-of-the-way places. Lime also has a compliance system that can limit access to riders who leave bikes and block Americans with Disabilities Act access on sidewalks.
Mullen also repeatedly said the perception of abandoned bikes was worse than the actual problem.
Councillors were happy to hear that the company’s warehouse is in Malden and that some of the 26 new jobs generated by Lime have gone to Malden residents. And as Councillor-at-Large Stephen Winslow pointed out, the city isn’t paying anything for the bike-sharing service.
And Lime seems to have something for every type of traveler. In addition to traditional bikes, Lime offers e-bikes that have a small motor installed in the rear to give riders a boost. “That helps someone who is in a suit and doesn’t want to get sweaty on the way to the office,” explained Mullen. The company also offers a share program with electric scooters that could eventually come to Malden.
Ward 5 Councillor Barbara Murphy explained that Malden has an ordinance that bans any motor-powered bikes and scooters from the bike trail. “It’s supposed to be pedal power on the bike path,” she said.
Mullen seemed surprised by that news and said he would review the city’s regulations.
Lime has 300 bikes on the streets during most of the year. During the winter, the fleet is reduced but bikes are still available. Mullen said staff keeps a close watch on weather forecasts so that bikes can be moved to make way for the plows. “People ride in the winter, just not so much,” said Mullen.
Other councillors acknowledged the benefits of the bikes but emphasized the need to keep them from blocking sidewalks and taking up space in yards.
Ward 3 Councillor John Matheson said the program should meet the needs of the entire community. “We want this to work for everybody, the people who ride the bikes and the people who do not,” he said.