A constant sight for EKU students for most of 2018 was the vibrant green and yellow Lime bikes lined outside residence halls or parked next to the library.
On Jan. 8, Finance and Administration Business Officer Steve Caudill noticed most of those 100-150 bikes were gone, when taking a recently-hired employee on a tour of EKU’s different sustainability initiatives.
Nine months into hosting the ride-sharing service Lime, the company has pulled out of EKU, Caudill confirmed. To boot, Lime never notified the university prior that it was ending its contract with the university.
Lime, formerly LimeBike, got its start in early
2017 and deployed thousands of bikes to cities and college campuses across the country. Since the introduction of electric Lime scooters, however, the company has begun phasing out its bike fleet.
The scooters can get up to eight times more riders per day than a bike and will see heavy promotion in the coming days, Lime officials told the Mountain View Voice, a newspaper in Palo Alto, Cal.
The administrators and Lime were supposed to have a conference call on Jan. 10 to discuss the future of the program, Caudill said. He thought Lime might want to discuss changes to the fleet, as the company had been moving towards electric scooters over bikes in other cities.
Caudill said this, combined with ridership, may have played a part. Numbers for ridership were “fairly good,” Caudill said, but Lime’s transition away from pedal bikes and smaller markets could have had the bigger impact.
“I think a big piece of it was they were changing their model,” Caudill said.
Lime has also pulled its bikes from St. Louis, Miss.; Tacoma, Wash.; Hartford, Conn. and parts of Ohio, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
President Michael Benson revealed the nature in which Lime removed its bikes from campus at a Student Government Association meeting on Feb. 13.
“They literally came under the cover of darkness, without telling us….” Benson said. “They determined it wasn’t being utilized like it should be, and they literally came and picked them up without telling us.”
Caudill said EKU is asking Lime to come and collect any remaining straggler bikes. He said students who see the remaining bikes can also contact Lime to collect them.
EKU’s next move could be a bike sharing program with local municipalities and other colleges, but nothing has been confirmed, Caudill said. Barry Poynter, vice president for finance and administration said a bigger footprint in the area could be more attractive to a vendor than just EKU’s campus.
“The bigger it is and the more subscribers they might have, we think that’ll generate more interest,” Poynter said. “So that’s what we’re exploring.”
The university still has the infrastructure to host another program, Caudill said. Lime gave $10,000 for infrastructure costs like signage and road markings, according to a contract between the two parties.
EKU pushed to have all infrastructure in place before the bikes arrived in March 2018 and has used all of the funds, Caudill said. Some supplies, like paint, may still be left over.
“The more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly we can make our campus, the better,” Caudill said.
The Eastern Progress reached out to Lime for an explanation.
“Our mission is to provide communities with safe, sustainable, convenient transportation options, and we are constantly looking to improve the way riders move throughout their communities,” a Lime spokesperson said. “We value the opportunity to serve the EKU community and we are grateful for the administration’s commitment to more convenient, green transportation options.”
Representatives declined to offer any further comment when asked.
Users in the Richmond market who still have unpaid charges with Lime will receive a refund, Caudill said. He said anyone who believes they should receive a refund but have not should email firstname.lastname@example.org.