Limebike Bikeshare Spotted Around Downtown Raleigh

Limebike bicycles in Moore Square

With so much attention going to the city’s bikeshare system, planned to launch in Spring 2018, this was somewhat of a surprise for me. NC State helped launch a private installation of Limebike a few weeks ago and recently, the citrus-colored bicycles have been spotted around downtown Raleigh.

I couldn’t help myself, I just had to try it. There was no signup fee and a 30 minute ride was only $1. (after my first free ride of course)

This system does not use any docks and relies heavily on the use of a smartphone app to help you get to a nearby bicycle. When I went out to use one, I couldn’t find the first but found a pair two blocks away. With a quick barcode scan, the bike was unlocked and ready for use.

Screenshot of the Limebike app.

In theory, I could park it anywhere, allowing others to just grab it for their own ride. The site encourages you to park it where there is existing bicycle parking so after showing it off at home, I rode it back to the nearest park to leave it.

The experience was quite delightful, even with a cheery jingle when the bike is locked and unlocked.

There is cause for debate here. With these bikes around Raleigh and a second system coming next year, I believe this changes the dynamic for bikeshare.

In my book, this is not the most ideal system, fragmenting the user base and causing a poorer user experience. Limebike’s reach won’t be as wide as the city’s system so there is overlap as well as individual coverage areas. To get the most, you need two apps, two sets of rules, etc.

That may seem simple to transit fans but we’re trying to get adoption by as many people as possible. It’s hurting the mission.

At the same time though, we may be in an experimental phase where the two systems can duke it out for user preference.

Either way, riding bikeshare in Raleigh has me excited and I hope for a far-reaching system with a plethora of options one day in the future. It’ll be fun to watch.

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  1. Like you said, I have mixed feelings about not having a shared, city-wide system but am thrilled to see 300+ bikes available for use in Raleigh and have definitely been seeing many popping up around town. My biggest questions are with no up front financial cost to the university to install these bikes, how will the system be maintained, rebalanced, etc. In concept, someone could ride one of these things to Canada if they wanted to – how does limebike, or NCSU track wayward bikes and bring them back to the initial deployment area. And then, when the City launches it’s program in the spring, how will the two systems interact, etc.

  2. @Mary,
    As long as you have the bike checked out (not locked in place), you are being charged to ride it. So, for Limebike, if you ride it to Canada, I suppose that they’ll just keep charging you a fee. Also, I suspect that they have some sort of agreement that you must make to not ride the bike beyond a certain area or subject yourself to being financially penalized. Remember, they have your bank account information when you start to ride.
    As for bikes being stolen, I suppose that all of them have some sort of tracking device in them like an RFID tag or something.
    Regarding the two systems interacting, I don’t suppose that they will. I do suspect that most bike share enthusiasts will use both. I can see the advantages of both systems. On the one hand, I like the idea of knowing where stations are to retrieve a bike. On the other hand, I also like the serendipity of finding a bike in an odd location that is not served by a station. This will be fun to watch as it plays out.

  3. Limebike (and others like it) are the future of bikeshare. Limebike has been a huge success in Seattle recently after their previous bikeshare program failed ( That previous bikeshare program is similar to what Raleigh is currently working towards…

    Also, Limebike is evolving to allow for other forms of payment ( Not sure if the system Raleigh is using will be this dynamic.

    What is great about it, from the perspective of NCSU, is Limebike doesn’t require any infrastructure beyond the bikes! No need to buy and install docking stations. No need to work out agreements with property owners for installing those docking stations. NCSU is (probably) spending NOTHING on this system, and might even be making money by permitting Limebike to operate on campus. Meanwhile, the City of Raleigh has spent millions to this point and doesn’t have a single bike on the road.

    Limebike hires local workers for maintenance on the bicycles, and they will move the bicycles around if one is dropped off far from campus or they are being clustered around a certain location.

  4. I’ve seen some cities have issues with similar bikes. They ended up in lakes and trashed. With the station system, you know where bikes will be (for example, for a trip back). With limebike, you hope someone left one nearby. They both have their plus and minuses, but so far from what I’ve seen and used, the station system is better overall.

  5. @john532 – yes of course! I would be more concerned not about 1 single user taking the bike to Canada but more, bike trip to North Hills > Wake Forest, etc. Slowly, bikes could start to fragment from their base market and would need to be rebalanced back to NCSU. With no cost upfront for the system, etc, I just wonder how the staffing needs of these type of concerns will be met (does limebike have someone local that will drive out and retrieve, etc). I didn’t see anything in the agreement (personally) that stipulated boundaries of use with the system – they all definitely have GPS trackers though (it’s how you locate the bike on the app). I agree that it will be very interesting to watch both systems. Added bonus, Raleigh will now have 600 bikes by spring instead of the anticipated 300, which is great!

  6. @Mark, yes they do rebalance them.
    @Mary, bikes being taken to outlying areas are like free demand studies for bike share providers. If bikes keep getting taken to North Hills then they know that is a destination.
    In a strange way, I can imagine Limebikes helping the other system by doing their system demand analysis for them. Limebike will be the only option for areas without stations. I wonder if LImebike knows where people are when they are trying to find a bike…even if unsuccessful in finding one near them?

  7. For occasional riders, Limebike will be cheaper. For power users of bikeshare, a monthly or yearly subscription will be much cheaper. This is assuming that rides are always a dollar and there isn’t a flat rate for unlimited use.

  8. Interesting how easily this was rolled out. No studies, no government input, no need for infrastructure and endless meetings of minutiae.

    They just got it done, amazed!

    I saw two of these at Cameron Village yesterday. Asked the two state students about them and how it worked. They just raved about it, I asked what was the one thing out of many they liked best. “We can leave it anywhere”. Nuff said.

    Let the best service win.

    I feel like bike share is gulping right now.

  9. One Limebike fan set up a Facebook event called “The Great Limebike Migration” for next Friday, which consists of as many people as possible grabbing a Limebike and riding it to the Brickyard. I suspect that it’s actually a Limebike employee trying to get them all in one place for maintenance.

  10. I’m surprised I can’t find anything online about the first thought that came to mind when I saw a LimeBike: what if I use it to go somewhere and I need the bike to get back and somebody takes it, and there no other bikes nearby? I wonder if there’s a way to make sure it’s there (while paying for the time of course)- but it’s not addressed anywhere I can find.

  11. @Sue
    Your concern is valid and I also wonder about that situation. When you have stations, and those stations are routinely serviced, one can be more assured that a bike will be in a specific place. From what I understand, Limebike has an app that shows you the location of available bikes but the nearest one might be blocks or miles away. And, if you choose to walk several blocks to the nearest bike, there’s no guarantee that it will still be there when you get to its location.
    IMO, the only way Limebike works is when there’s a large quantity and high density of bikes in your area.

  12. @Bob. The homeless would need a bank account and a smartphone to create a Limebike account…just food for thought.

  13. Just saw one of these bikes in front of homeless shelter on Wilmington St. Hoping homeless folks will benefit from these. Also interested to see how the system holds up to anyone with ill intentions.

  14. If you want the bike to be where you are when you come out you buy the time and it stays locked and out of service until your time runs out, no different that the other bike share?

    What happens when you walk all the way to a bike station and they are all gone when you arrive. Should you walk to the next one?

    What happens when some smart A on a Friday night of fun pops all the tires at the corral, saw that once in Seattle.

    Looks like they started with 300 and want to go to 600 if NC State lets them based on demand.

    That’s a good number of bikes.

    Not sure but I think you may have a better chance of finding a limebike close to you then relying on a couple corrals in a given square couple miles.

    It will be interesting and entertaining to see the results.

    Which one will cost the taxpayer less, will either turn a profit? if not they both may be doomed.

  15. Just tried limebike for the first time. Used it to ride from downtown to hunt and back using the greenway. Honestly it was pretty terrible. Those bikes are not made for someone 6 foot tall.

  16. @Al
    I am a power user of Miami’s system (I split my time between Miami Beach and Raleigh) and I know how these systems work. I’ve been using one for years now. I know the ups and downs of a system and the logistics required to run one. This is why I weighed in quite heavily when the city of Raleigh was asking for input. I even wrote the city’s bike program lead.

    My experience with bikeshare is why I have said that station density is an important consideration. management of any system is also paramount to its success. Regardless of having fixed stations or not, bike share requires management. Both station systems and Limebike have apps to identify available bikes. Both systems will have ops to manage the distribution of the bikes and both will have a learning curve for operations and users.

    The way that I see it, Limebike may be fine for NC State because they get a reduced cost. It will also be fine for visitors to the city because they won’t have the option of the much cheaper yearly subscription available to city residents. For all others and, especially, power users of the system that might use it daily for work commutes, etc., Limebike will be a much more expensive option because those dollar rides will add up quickly. This is going to especially be true if you have to pay $2/hour to have the bike sit there unused because you are afraid it won’t be there when you need it.

    As for costing the city, I see bikeshare as infrastructure and an investment in the community that enables more urban and infill development. Keep in mind that the city has a vested interest in more and more urban development because it collects much more tax revenue per acre and it doesn’t require greenfield expansion of other infrastructure. So, I couldn’t care less if bikshare is “profitable” because its importance and impact can’t be measured in a vacuum.
    Also, even if it wasn’t important to urban development of the city, I don’t understand why a bikeshare has to turn a profit as infrastructure when city roads, public parks for kids, etc. do not.

    Miami has coexisting bikeshare programs. Citibike is the massive system with a hundred+ stations and a 1000+ bikes while Limebike services Key Biscayne, which is somewhat isolated to the rest of urban Miami.

  17. So theoretically someone could rent one of these bikes, put it in their apt and return it on the app and then the next day check it out again. Right? Does Limebike have a way of preventing this?

    I wonder if the bikes will be stripped of parts and/or stolen? Even if the bike says “put me down or I’m calling the police”, it’s not like the cops are going to show up anytime soon.

  18. I emailed somebody from Limebike and received this reply:

    LimeBike has 3G and GPS technology built into it. It’s a dockless bikeshare system, which means it can be ridden and parked anywhere. The user downloads the LimeBike app on their phone and unlocks the back of the bike by scanning the QR code with the phone. Then the user can ride it for $1 every half an hour. Once the user is finished with their ride, they can park the bike and lock it back. If anyone tries to steal it, it has an alarm built in that says “Please put me down or I’m calling the police.” The LimeBike staff goes around daily to gather up bikes and redeploy them on NC State’s campus.

  19. John,

    Well said, thanks for laying that out. My only worry is that when things are subsidized they eventually suffer a cruel fate when times get tough. But, for the sake of Raleigh I hope they both live a long life.

    Just impressed with how fast limebike exploded on the scene and seems to be everywhere, even seeing them in marketing videos here in town.

    Thanks for your efforts in establishing the upcoming bike share program.

  20. Hey folks – the City of Raleigh’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager here. Since January I’ve been leading the charge to getting the City’s bikeshare system up and running and just thought I’d inject a little bit of clarity here.

    1. LimeBike doesn’t currently geographically restrict rides. Inactive bikes are eventually returned to NCSU’s campus, but users can ride for as long and as far as they’re willing to pedal and pay for.

    2. NCSU’s LimeBike program will not offer cash payment like they’re piloting in Seattle, because their primary ridership consists of students who almost all have smartphones. Social equity is a major element of implementing the City’s bikeshare system, so we will absolutely provide cash payment as an option. We also hope to integrate payment for transit with payment for bikeshare.

    3. The City hasn’t yet spent any money on bikeshare infrastructure. The money we will spend for the first phase (300 bikes and 30 stations) comprises a federal grant and a 20% match from the City.

    4. The “Great LimeBike Migration” was put on by an NCSU student.

    The preliminary station location map as well as the Feasibility Study and Implementation Plan are available on the Planning & Design page of, so please be sure to check it out! I’m psyched to see so much interest in bikeshare and look forward to making it a viable transportation option for more Raleigh citizens. If you have any questions about the City of Raleigh’s bikeshare system, please don’t hesitate to email me at If you’ve got questions about LimeBike, contact them at or get in touch with NCSU Transportation at

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