E-bike company Lime to investigate botched launch in Chiswick

Image above: Lime bikes in Chiswick; Photograph LB Hounslow

Users unable to park in designated bays over the weekend may discover they have been fined

E-bike providers Lime have said they will be investigating their botched launch in Chiswick, which saw part of the necessary technology introduced early, leaving Lime bike users confused and vulnerable to being fined through no fault of their own.

Lime bikes were introduced with the idea that you could pick one up wherever you could find one and leave it wherever your journey ended, the huge advantage being that users can make a one way journey and not have to worry about looking after a bike.

Because some users are inconsiderate and literally leave them in the middle of the pavement, a hazard for pedestrians, especially wheelchair users and people with prams and buggies, LB Hounslow decided to introduce mandatory use of parking bays.

Over the past few weeks new parking bays have been marked out all over Chiswick and Brentford as a pilot for the whole borough. Users activate a QR code when they start their journey, using either the Lime app or Uber, which enables them to find bikes and pay for their journeys. They are supposed to tell the app when they finish their journey.

With the introduction of mandatory parking bays in Chiswick, Lime should be able to tell whether bikes have been left in the designated parking spaces and users will be fined if they have not.

The new system was introduced at the weekend but someone at Lime appears to have been trigger happy because the technology to tell users to use the parking bays was introduced on Friday 2 June, when it was supposed to have been introduced on Monday 5 June.

As a result users got a message at the end of their journey telling them they had to park the bike in a parking bay, but the geolocator showing where the parking bays are located was not working. Even if they parked the bike in a designated bay, there was no way of letting Lime know that, leaving bike users vulnerable to being fined.

Image above: An a-bike parking bay in Chiswick (7 June); Photograph Jackie Elizabeth via Facebook

Teething troubles causing “chaos”

Nigel Walley was one rider who was fined £5. Others have  received warnings, but not been fined.

Nigel Walley took to Twitter to complain:

“This badly managed implementation has caused chaos so far. I was in a growing crowd of Lime users outside the pubs on Strand-on-the-Green last night who couldn’t work out why we suddenly couldn’t park anywhere??

“Eventually we worked it out, only to realise that the only areas to leave them were a really long way from the pubs – dramatically reducing the usefulness of the scheme.

“Then when we took some visiting friends on them to Gunnersbury stationfor their tube home there were no bike parking bays anywhere near the station. The nearest was Bollo Lane or Acton Lane.”

Drew White tweeted:

“We can’t park at *Turnham Green Terrace *Rocks Lane sports centre *TG Tube station *Devonshire Rd *Sainsbury’s Nearest “designated parking area” shows outside church on Ealing Borough side.”

Cllr Katherine Dunne, deputy leader of Hounslow and Cabinet Member for Transport, told The Chiswick Calendar there are parking bays at key infrastructure points, such as tube stations; they just were not showing on the app.

She responded to Drew on Twitter on Saturday:

“The new bays aren’t active until tomorrow when they will be populated by Lime. For a full list of locations see: e-bike rental scheme trial.

Seeing the barrage of criticism on social media, she posted:

“There was an error on Friday evening where the zones were prematurely activated but the pins were not uploaded – this caused some user frustration as users were asked to park in a bay but these were not yet in the system. We will identify all users who struggled to park and send some comms out this coming week to apologise for any frustration, reverse any charges and investigate why the geofencing was activated earlier that it should.”

Another problem which has emerged is that if you dump a bike near a parking bay rather than within it, the geolocator is not precise enough to know that, so Lime ask users to send a photograph of the correctly parked bike as well.

Above: Tweet by Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council – Cllr Katherine Dunne

Fleet of 700 e-bikes delivered to Chiswick

There are 56 designated e-bike bays positioned around Chiswick. E-scooters are not included in this scheme.

The Council announced the signing of an exclusive agreement with Lime, a San Francisco-based company, to operate the e-bike scheme within the borough. As part of this trial initiative, a fleet of 700 e-bikes was delivered to the area, to accompany the introduction of additional parking restrictions.

The borough of Ealing has not introduced mandatory parking bays, so Lime users in the part of Chiswick which is in the borough of Ealing will still have the flexibility to leave bikes wherever they finish their journey. There are plans for a London wide agreement next year, but until that is agreed and introduced the Lime bike system is a hotch potch of different rules in different boroughs. In some you can park anywhere, in some riders have to use mandatory parking bays and in others there are parking bays but their use is only ‘advisory.’

Unlocking a bike costs £1, followed by a charge of 23p per minute. Regular users can benefit from deals and discounts offered by the scheme. As part of the new scheme, Lime will offer 50% off the cost of e-bike rides for lower income residents via its Lime Access programme. The programme provides eligible riders – including concession pass holders, key workers, students and the unemployed – with unlimited discounts with Lime, helping them to get where they need to go in a ‘safe, sustainable and affordable way’.

Image above: A car parked in one of Chiswick’s designated e-bike parking bays; Photograph Cllr Katherine Dunne via Twitter, a Lime bike parked outside of a designated parking bay; Photograph Mark Izatt via Twitter

“We are working with them to resolve any issues”

Councillor Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Climate, Environment and Transport Strategy told us:

“I am sorry to learn some riders were penalised over the weekend. Lime is contacing the users affected to reimburse them. We are working with them to resolve any issues.

Lime bikes told us:

‘The launch in the borough of Hounslow will be delivered in three phases. As we move forward with the rollout of bikes in the borough, the number of dedicated e-bike bays will also be increased in the coming months. Once all phases have been launched, we will continue to work with the council to ensure that the density of bays in the area is sufficient to meet demand.”

Lime say the vast majority of their 1.5 million users in the UK ride and part responsibly, helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality in their local area.

“For the few who don’t, we have a robust fining model in place, and roughly 80% of users do not reoffend after their first fine.

“When parking, all Lime users are required to take an ‘end-trip photo’ of how they park. These photos are reviewed, with users warned and fined for mis-parking. Fines start at £2 for the first offence, and escalate to £20 for the fifth offence under our progressive discipline policy. After this point, the rider will be permanently banned from our service.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar