Lime Bike Is Just What Denver Needs. Too Bad It Won’t Work Out.

Update – as predicted, it did not work out. You can read more about that here. 

Usually, this time of year, the fireworks start up in the neighborhood. The kind you aren’t supposed to set off in city limits. I used to get annoyed when they were fired off at all hours of the night by kids on the summer break. Now I sort of miss them, the fireworks. The endless pop pop popping. At least then you knew the streets were calm enough for to enjoy safely.

This week I had to negotiate with my new neighbors as to who gets to park under the big tree tomorrow. Old neighbors move out; new ones move in. The city grows outward and upward.

Lime Bikes dumped 500 electric scooters all over Denver on Friday. On Saturday, in a daze of a hangover, we rode them down the gritty-but-new stretch of Larimer for coffee and burritos. It was a swift and easy process, a smooth ride. Like a bike, but without the effort. By the time we were nourished at Crema the scooters had been picked up by other riders and moved on, so we walked the 25-minute walk home, passing the mini-bazaar of garage sale tables and thrift stores open to the sidewalk.

What can I say? Lime made for a great morning, and I’d happily use them again.

As with everything new in Denver, someone has a problem with it. The beautiful thing about our modern, connected, social times is how justified we feel our outrage is.

Somewhere before me, maybe a generation or two, we got fascinated with the idea of having personal cars for door-to-door everything. As a kid in a Texan suburb, my mom would do circles around a parking lot looking for “the closer” spot. Today, everyone likes when there is parking at a place but are appalled that someone else would have the nerve to use it. We also complain about increasing gas prices, insurance rates, and traffic for the same reasons. I keep my truck stocked with gas, sleeping bags, and a fly rod for when I need to venture deep into the hills and escape the complaints.

I guess that goes for everything nowadays. When something happens, it needs to work well, and it needs to work for ME. As a result, it seems, no one is happy about much of anything.

Denver has a lot more people. And a lot more cars. I suspect that a lot of the recent transplants here are from places that aren’t much like a city. Then again, Denver isn’t much like a city. What it does need is another option. Maybe another four options. On getting from A to B.

They didn’t consult with public works.

There’s nothing much about the Lime system that isn’t against the existing law. Consulting with a public agency promises an extended rollout, probably more expensive, and usually corrals a bunch of people and interests who want their say. In the end, it wouldn’t have happened.

Denver B-Cycle rolled out across Denver with fanfare a few years ago. When that happened, the closest stop was 9 blocks from our house. By that point, I was just 4-5 blocks away from where I needed to be. It’s a novel concept that works for many, but I have never used them. A data set and a batch of public opinion made the rollout and maintenance and pricing of B-Cycle JUST out of my reach.

What if someone gets drunk or hits someone or ….

In Denver, people drink a lot and still drive cars. There’s not an evening I ride a bike up Larimer where there isn’t at least two Lyft/Uber cars making a stop in the bike lane. Homeless people with bike-carts stacked high with salvaged goods barrel down sidewalks full of people. It’s not the device; it is the people behind the machine. When they do wrong and are caught, reprimands are issued. Punishments served.

Am I so naive? Can we trust the commoner to use their best judgment when using something as simple as an electric scooter? Or is Denver stuck in that place between older people who were selfish about the way things used to be, and young people who are amazed the city isn’t built to their specifications?

Denver isn’t a huge city. A sturdy bike ride gets you from Black Shirt Brewing to Declaration in a cozy 20 minutes. But that’s on a bike – not accessible to some. Public transit takes about 50 minutes and two stops. A car will be about 20 minutes, but you have to count gas and parking and the risk of driving back after a few beers. As a dweller of Larimer, I’m don’t think much of what happens on South Broadway or Capitol Hill because of that thing called “space” between them all. I’m sure there is cool stuff on Tennyson or out in Stapleton. I’d spend money at all of these places if it weren’t such a pain in the ass to get there.

I’m sure there are plenty of great ways to tie all of these neighborhoods together with limited efforts that remove cars from the road and make it easy for everyone to enjoy. I’m also sure there are curmudgeonly bureaucratic people who write for the Denver Business Journal who will advocate against anything that isn’t a personalized spot for their SUV they drove in from the suburbs.

Or, maybe they try out a Lime Scooter. It takes approximately one city block to realize what a fuckin’ gas they are to use.


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