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Newton could shift bike-share system from Green to Blue

Bluebikes offers a network of docking stations and provides a fleet of rental bicycles that customers can ride between stations.
Bluebikes offers a network of docking stations and provides a fleet of rental bicycles that customers can ride between stations. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Newton could make a change in the provider for its bike-share system, after LimeBike told officials the company may not be providing rental bicycles to the city beyond May 2020, according to a statement from Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

Instead, Newton could join the Bluebikes network that currently provides bike-share services to Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville, Fuller’s statement said.

“Our goal is to ensure bike share continues in Newton in 2020 and beyond,” Fuller said.

Bluebikes, which is operated by Lyft, offers a network of docking stations and provides a fleet of rental bicycles that customers can ride between stations. Lyft contacted Newton about joining the bike-share system.

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Newton, Arlington, Watertown, and Chelsea have submitted a joint grant application with the state Department of Transportation’s Workforce Transportation Program to cover the costs of bringing five docking stations to each of those communities, Fuller said.

“We will continue to discuss options with Lime and Lyft for the future,” Fuller said in the statement.

A spokesman for Lyft said in a statement the company has been in touch with Watertown, Revere, Chelsea, Arlington, and Newton.

“Lyft is looking forward to continuing conversations with stakeholders about the future of bike-share in the region,” he said.

Lyft operates Bluebikes for the city of Boston, which owns the system. Stefanie Seskin, Boston’s active transportation director, said the city has always envisioned a larger regional system that can serve more people. “We look forward to working with Newton and the other communities on the details of operating the system,” she said in a statement.

LimeBike has operated in Newton since the summer of 2018, when it launched its service as part of a program that served 15 area communities.

LimeBike’s so-called dockless program allowed riders to leave bikes at any bike rack, next to trees and signs, or on the sidewalk, so long as the bike didn’t block access.

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But LimeBike’s business model has since moved to scooters, “making it challenging for them to continue bike operations,” Fuller said.

LimeBike charged riders to rent its bicycles, but the service itself was offered at no cost to the city. Finding a similar service from another provider may not be possible, Fuller said.

“Given the changing landscape of bike share, we have determined that it is unlikely that a dockless vendor like Lime will offer bike share to Newton at no cost and/or without a requirement to provide scooters as well,” Fuller said.

In a statement to the Globe, a Lime spokesman said the master contract is renewed annually, and the current contract is only halfway through.

“We will have conversations with MAPC about the future of the program after the new year,” the spokesman said. “The bikeshare program has been wildly successful — reaching over a third of a million rides since launching. Lime is proud to serve the MAPC region with affordable, convenient micromobility options.”

LimeBike has operated in Newton since the summer of 2018, when it launched its service as part of a program that served 15 area communities.
LimeBike has operated in Newton since the summer of 2018, when it launched its service as part of a program that served 15 area communities.John Hilliard for the Boston Globe

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