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Spokane becomes one of the first 15 cities in the world equipped with new ebikes

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 8, 2020

Lime employees Ray Clark, left, and Dylan Ramsey, right, ride new electric bicycles recently put into service on Thursday in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Lime employees Ray Clark, left, and Dylan Ramsey, right, ride new electric bicycles recently put into service on Thursday in Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane’s Lime bikes have gotten an upgrade.

Fifty new red Jump ebikes, designed by the Jump team for Uber and bought by Lime, hit the streets for the first time Thursday.

“Spokane is joining some pretty choice company,” said Jonathan Hopkins, spokesperson for Lime. “These bikes only exist in 15 cities in the world. Paris, London, D.C., Sydney, Berlin, Seattle, Rome…”

The Jump bikes are part of Lime’s mission to reduce carbon emissions, Hopkins said. Because the average passenger vehicle emits about 411 grams of CO2 per mile, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Hopkins frames it like this: every mile you ride a bike instead of a car, you’re saving about 400 grams of CO2.

Since Lime launched in Spokane, with the earlier model that left each winter, people have ridden close to a million miles on Lime scooters and bikes.

The new bikes will be available all winter, though, he said. They also handle hills much better than scooters and have baskets to carry groceries, opening up new options for car-free travel.

Lime’s ultimate goal, Hopkins said, is to provide a healthier, more environmentally friendly option for every Spokanite traveling under 5 miles nontransit.

The bikes come at the expense of Lime, though Hopkins said most bike sharing programs would require about a 50% contribution from the city.

People can use the Uber or Lime app to purchase a ride and unlock the ebikes, Hopkins said. When they’re done riding, the bikes can be locked and left anywhere on a sidewalk out of the way of pedestrians, he said.

He could see it changing Spokane’s downtown in a powerful way, too, he said.

“When you reduce the need for cars, there’s more room for jobs, activities,” Hopkins said.

He pointed to Seattle, where a downward trend in fewer people commuting via car has paired with an upward trend in the number of people working downtown, according to data from Commute Seattle. In 2019, 26% fewer people were driving to work than in 2010 and the number of downtown jobs rose from about 200,000 to about 295,000.

He pointed, too, to health benefits of e-bikes, which are motorized and don’t require pedaling. Older adults sometimes had larger mental health benefits from e-biking than pedal biking, suggesting time moving outside might be just as important as aerobic exercise, according to a 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Plos One.

“We are here to help build a healthy community for the people of Spokane,” Hopkins said.

He said he believes new, improved e-bikes can boost people’s hours of exercise, bring more business downtown and reduce carbon emissions .

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