What's In Store

Two new competing ways to get around Charlotte offer GPS-enabled ‘smart bikes’

LimeBike is available in Charlotte as of Nov. 8.
LimeBike is available in Charlotte as of Nov. 8. Courtesy of LimeBike

Two new bike shares are now available in Charlotte.

But unlike other bike shares, competitors LimeBike and Spin, are “dockless,” meaning users don’t have to return bikes to designated racks when they’re done.

Both bike shares, which launched here Wednesday, work similarly and say they are more convenient than other options, since they don’t require users to return bikes to a designated rack.

LimeBike (so called because of its lime green-colored bikes) lets users unlock its “smart bikes,” meaning they’re 3G-enabled with GPS, via a smartphone app. Each ride costs $1 for every 30 minutes (or 50 cents for students, the company says.) When riders are done, they lock the bike’s back wheel, then the app guides them to “responsible” areas to park that don’t obstruct sidewalks or other walkways.

Spin’s orange-colored bikes are solar-powered, GPS-enabled, self-locking and have built-in Bluetooth capabilities. Spin also lets users unlock and pay for the bikes with a smartphone app. The company says the bikes can be returned anywhere, and they also charge $1 for every 30-minute ride.

A Spin bike Courtesy of Spin

Because both companies’ bikes are GPS-enabled, if a bike is moved without being unlocked, it alerts a local team that will monitor where bikes are at all times.

That’s why incidents of vandalism are rare with LimeBike, a spokeswoman said. Furthermore, the bikes’ parts are all proprietary, so a wheel, for example, wouldn’t fit on another bike if someone stole it.

LimeBike is now available in 26 markets, the spokeswoman said. LimeBike is starting out in Charlotte with 200 bikes, although it plans to add more in coming weeks. To celebrate the launch, LimeBike is offering new customers their first five rides free.

Spin is starting out with 500 bikes in Charlotte. The company also operates in Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Mountain View, Washington D.C. and Aurora, with plans to expand again soon.

LimeBike and Spin join a growing number of bike share companies in Charlotte. B-Cycle, for instance, launched here in 2012. Another one called VBikes rolled out in August.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta