Bike share launches in small mountain town, outperforms big cities

Aug 9, 2017:
Photo by Chris McNamara
Photo by Chris McNamara
Ridership for a bike share pilot launched at Lake Tahoe is outperforming major cities in just its first weeks, according to the League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue). The League brought the pilot to Tahoe in collaboration with LimeBike, the California-based company operating the bike share system, as part of its campaign to test transportation solutions to reduce pollution from auto traffic at the world-famous alpine lake.

“Protecting Lake Tahoe can be as easy as riding a bike,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, the League’s executive director. “It’s exciting to see new technology help beat the trap of traffic.”

Soon after the pilot’s mid-July launch, ridership led the nation for all cities on the LimeBike platform for multiple days, as measured in rides per bike. After only 24 days in operation, residents and visitors had already ridden 2,667 miles, roughly equivalent to the length of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, which passes just west of the lake.

Tahoe is home to only 55,000 residents, but welcomes over 20 million annual visitors, mostly by car, which takes a toll on the lake’s water quality and clogs local roads.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe has prioritized finding solutions to allow more people to get to and around the Tahoe region without being forced to drive. In addition to the newly-launched bike share service, the League advocates for pilots for micro-transit service and more efficient parking strategies to reduce car trips.

The bike share pilot uses LimeBike’s dockless system, which unlocks bikes using a smartphone app. The bikes are also GPS-tracked, providing data that will help transportation planners better understand where people are biking.

“Initial data shows that median rides on LimeBikes last 17 minutes, meaning people are using them to commute distances that likely would have been car trips,” said Dr. Collins.

Lake Tahoe is famous as one of the world’s clearest and deepest alpine lakes, but its clarity has decreased in recent decades. Twentieth-century development paved over wetlands and marshes that acted as natural pollution filters, while cars and trucks brought pollution that degrades clarity and causes excessive growth of algae.

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The League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known by the slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue,” is Tahoe's oldest and largest nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. The League is dedicated to community engagement and education, and collaborating to find solutions to Tahoe's environmental challenges. The League's main campaigns include combatting pollution, promoting restoration, tackling invasive species and protecting Tahoe's shoreline.
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