Newton goes lime with dockless bike-share program

LimeBike rental bicycles were parked at the Newton Centre MBTA stop.
LimeBike rental bicycles were parked at the Newton Centre MBTA stop.John Hilliard for the Boston Globe

NEWTON — If you’re noticing a lot of bright green and yellow bicycles popping up around town, you’re not seeing things.

They’re part of a regional bike-share program that will ultimately bring thousands of bicycles to more than a dozen local communities, including Newton.

For Cathy Offenberg, who is considering using a bicycle to get around, the timing has worked out.

“It couldn’t have been easier,” Offenberg said after she tried the service Sunday with an hour-and-a-half ride around Crystal Lake. “It was so delightful.”

Newton is part of a group of 15 cities and towns that are participating in the program, which was first announced in April by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.


Two companies — LimeBike and Spin — will provide dockless bicycles for short-term rentals.

Along with Newton, the bike-share program includes Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Needham, Revere, Waltham, Watertown, and Winthrop.

The bikes cost $1 for every 30 minutes of use, and unlike bike-share systems used in Boston and other cities, riders don’t have to find a dock to park their rented bikes.

Instead, riders in participating communities can leave the bicycles at or near any bike rack; next to trees, benches, or signs; or even the sidewalk, so long as they don’t block sidewalk access.

The bicycles’ locations are tracked with a smartphone app, so riders can find bicycles near them.

The same rules apply to bikes from either LimeBike or Spin.

Up to 500 bikes will be available in Newton, with thousands more in the region, according to the city’s flyer for the program.

In Newton, LimeBike’s bicycles were available in late July, and those provided by Spin will arrive this month.

Because the bicycles can be parked anywhere, the bike share companies will retrieve them if they’re left blocking a sidewalk or left in another wrong place, said Ellen Ishkanian,a city spokeswoman.


Residents can call the companies or the city’s 311 service to report a bicycle’s location.

“We are working very hard to educate the public about where bikes should be parked,” Ishkanian said in an e-mail.

The bikes should be parked on a sidewalk, and next to the curb, so there is a clear path to travel on the sidewalk. They can also be parked at a bike rack, bench, or tree on public property, according to a city fact sheet on the program.

People should not leave the rental bikes on private property, on the ground, in crosswalks, in loading zones, or next to fire hydrants, bus stops, or on grass.

The city encourages riders to wear helmets, Ishkanian said, and state law requires helmets for children age 16 and under.

As of July 27, the city had received 13 e-mails and five calls expressing concerns about the bike-share program. They included the appearance of the bikes creating an eyesore; questions about who will move the bikes; potential disability access issues when bikes are left on sidewalks; and opposition to a dockless bike system.

Plans are in place to pull the bikes off the road before the snow comes, Ishkanian said.

As of Monday, 1,011 riders had taken 1,749 rides in Newton through the bike-share program.

Offenberg, a landscape architect at CRJA-IBI Group in Boston, said several coworkers commute on bicycles, and she was inspired to consider bicycling herself.


She may not be the only one: While she rode her rental LimeBike Sunday, she was stopped a few times by locals who wanted to learn more about it.

“I felt like it got a lot of attention,” Offenberg said.

She’s considering buying her own bicycle, but it’s good to have the bike-share option, too, she said.

“Being that this service is available, I could see myself picking one up and doing a few errands,” she said.

In Newton Monday, the rental bicycles could be seen parked in spots across the city — at street corners, at T stations, tucked behind trees, and even near residents’ homes.

During the Monday afternoon commute, Frank Britton was trying to use his smartphone to unlock a LimeBike parked at the Newton Centre MBTA station.

Britton said he thought LimeBike’s bicycles were a good service, and he liked having the flexibility of deciding to bicycle home on a day he took a train to work.

“I hope they’re very successful,” Britton said. “I’m impressed with them. I hope they become heavily adopted.”

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.