There’s nothing worse than a long walk around uptown in Charlotte’s blistering summer heat. Thankfully, dockless scooter and bike shares are here to help, since there has been a surge in brands arriving in Charlotte. In particular, they are highly visible in the South End, Dilworth and Uptown neighborhoods.
We ventured out into the 91-degree heat to put our investigative journalism skills to work and figure out exactly how the dockless bike and scooter scene works. Here’s what we learned about the 6 brands taking over Charlotte’ sidewalk:
Price: $1 to ride for 30 minutes and under, must load $5 to account to start; $14 monthly membership for unlimited 30-minute rides.
Accessibility: This was the most common bike we encountered.
Experience: The seat on the Spin bike was inordinately comfortable. We felt more like we were lounging than doing physical activity. At one point, one of us wasn’t watching where we were going and ran directly into the curb, but the bike hopped over the bump with little resistance, so props for being a hardy bike for distracted riders.
Basket Capacity: We bought a six-pack of (non-alcoholic) ginger beer to test the carrying capacity of each bike. The Spin basket was smaller than the others, but still could hold the six-pack.
Ending the Ride: The app told us we were parked in the wrong spot and to move to a spot on the map in blue or we would get fined, but the whole city of Charlotte was gray on the map. So if you encounter a stray Spin bike, help a girl out and take it for a ride. (We think we got fined.)
Price: $1 for 30 minutes and under, must add $5 to account to start.
Accessibility: Compared to the other apps, the number of bikes displayed on the Mobike app was relatively low. We didn’t see anyone riding any in the city.
Experience: None of the gears felt like a very comfortable ride for us, so it felt like we were constantly on the verge of crashing into pedestrians (who, honestly, kind of deserved it. Charlotte, who knew your pedestrian population liked walking in slow zig-zags so much?). The app records how many grams of carbon emissions your ride saved and how many calories you burned. It also keeps an overall tally of how many emissions your rides have saved and how many calories you’ve burned.
Basket Capacity: Could fit a 6-pack of ginger beer in here, with room for several other items.
Ending the Ride: Park the bike in a spot that is safe and legal and lock the wheel. Then lock it up on the app and wait for confirmation.
Price: $1 for 30 minutes, must load $10 to account to start
Accessibility: Out of all the bikes, the LimeBike was the least common one that we encountered, although the map of bikes locations in the app was full. Maybe they were all in use?
Experience: Using the LimeBikes was a trip and a half. The first bike we encountered was “under maintenance,” which that app told us after about five minutes of wrangling it to start. The next bike had something wrong with the chain: when we peddled, the bike didn’t move. We hesitantly tried again on the third bike we encountered, this time finding success with a bike that worked fine. The layout of all three of the bikes felt slightly off though — the whole seat was set too low. Like the Mobike app, the Lime app shows how many calories you’ve burned and how many grams of carbon emissions you’ve saved.
Basket Capacity: Biggest size. Similar to a grocery basket. The six-pack had plenty of room.
Ending the Ride: Ending the ride was no trouble (like the others, just lock the back wheel and the app handles the rest), but starting the ride was a problem. Unlike the other bikes, the QR scanner on the app didn’t work, so we had to manually input the code on all three bikes to start the ride.
Price: Free the first week, then it’s $1 an hour. You can do $25 for 30 days or $49 for 3 months.
Accessibility: We saw several rows of OfO bikes spread across the city, so they were easily accessible.
Experience: Download the free OfO app, scan the QR code and select “unlock” on the app to get started. The bike will then automatically unlock the wheel. Getting on was a serious struggle. The seat had been raised really high beforehand and it was a bit challenging to lower it. We would not really consider it to have been a very smooth glide — but hey, we haven’t ridden a bike since the 5th grade so we might be the ones to blame here.
Basket Capacity: Smaller basket capacity, but still could fit the six-pack of ginger beer.
Ending the Ride: To end the ride, park your bike in a spot that is out of the way. End your ride on the app and manually lock the wheel (don’t worry, it’s fairly easy).
While not in the dockless category, we can’t leave out Charlotte’s original bike-share.
Price: $8 24-hour pass with unlimited two-hour rides (as long as bike is docked), and $4 for each additional 120 minutes
How accessible: B-cycle bikes can be found on 28 docking racks located around the city and must be returned to the rack to end the ride. All the racks we encountered were mostly full.
Experience: The handles of both of our bikes were sticky, which was unpleasant, and both of us agreed that riding the B-cycle was more difficult than riding the other bikes. We were fully out of breath by the time we reached the next dock.
Ending the Ride: To end the ride, park at your nearest bike rack and simply push the bike back into its position on one of the docks.
Basket Capacity: Very big basket that could fit a six-pack of ginger beer and plenty more. What was good about this basket is that small items will not fall out, due to the design.
Price: $1 to get started, then $0.15 per minute.
Max speed: 15 mph
Accessibility: By far the most accessible scooter. We saw no less than 10 people zooming around on these scooters.
Experience: To start, download the Bird app and enter in or take a photo of your credit card and license info. The app is very straight-forward and even included little guides to walk you through your experience. Once you hop on the scooter, you kick the ground three times and you are off for a smooth glide at whatever speed you desire (press down on button on the handle to determine speed) — we have terrible balance and found this one to be pretty easy.
Ending the Ride: To end the ride, park the scooter in an area that doesn’t block public pathways. Then lock the scooter with your app.
Carrying Capacity: The Bird doesn’t come equipped with a basket. We originally had a coffee tumbler with us but had to put it back in the office, since it had nowhere to go. We did pass another man on a Bird with a basket of fruit that he had simply set on the board and was keeping balanced with his foot. (The ginger beer would have fit.)
Price: $1 to unlock, $0.15 per minute to ride, must load $10 to account to start (this factors into your LimeBike account as well)
Max speed: 14.8 mph
Accessibility: Fairly accessible, but Bird seems to have taken over the whole city.
Experience: Lime Scooters and LimeBikes play a little tune when they are unlocked, which really starts things off on the right foot by getting you pumped to ride. This scooter felt very smooth, but be prepared for its quick acceleration.
Carrying Capacity: The Lime also didn’t come with a basket, so we mimicked our friend on the Bird and put the box of ginger beer on the board. It stayed put fine and probably didn’t even need our foot on top of it to balance it.
Ending the Ride: Like the others, the Lime scooter has to be parked in a legal spot that doesn’t block the sidewalk or roadways. Unlike the others though, you need to take a picture of the bike in its legal parking spot to end the ride. However, we tested the app by trying to park a Lime scooter directly in the middle of a parking garage entrance, and it accepted it as an acceptable spot anyway.
Spin service was reportedly scheduled to begin in conjunction with Bird service in May. But…we haven’t seen any.
Price: Couldn’t tell you
Max speed: 15 mph according to legend (and Google), 0 mph for us
Accessibility: Not accessible
Experience: We road around the city in search for these scooters and could not find one. Even when we used the app to locate one, we were only able to find the Spin bikes. It is still a mystery to us if these even exist or not in the city of Charlotte.
Carrying capacity: Due to our inability to find one, the Spin couldn’t even hold us
Ending the Ride: What ride?
Photos by Deanna Drogan and Taylor Buck.