Lime Bike has made the decision to pull out of Ithaca, part of a larger company decision to remove itself from markets where it is not making money.
Russell Murphy, a spokesperson for Lime Bike, confirmed the decision in an email statement to the Ithaca Times.
"We recently made the tough decision to depart Ithaca given challenges around operating a sustainable, long-term service," Murphy said. "We are thankful to Mayor Myrick for his forward-thinking approach to transportation and to the many who contributed to the launch and operations of the Ithaca bike share program. We are also thankful to Bike Walk Tompkins, which helped support safer infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians and infrastructure in Ithaca, and to whom we have donated much of our bike repair equipment."
The bikes had already been removed from the city in March, and from dozens of other places around the world, over coronavirus fears, though at the time it had been assumed they would return once the outbreak ended. Now it appears the city will have to look for another bike-share program after undergoing a long process to approve Lime, though Mayor Svante Myrick said he hadn't actually heard anything from Lime regarding their future.
"It is unfortunate that it didn't work out for them, or that they didn't see that this could be a market for growth," said Hector Chang of BikeWalk Tompkins, the most influential proponent of the program when it was first being considered by the City of Ithaca. "At least on our end, it was a great experience."
Chang confirmed Lime informed them of the decision during a conference call last month. He said BikeWalk Tompkins is informally assessing companies that could fit in Ithaca and bring another bike share program to the city. He said it was a priority for the organization, though the process would likely last until at least 2021, considering the ongoing outbreak and the amount of time it took LimeBike to be approved.
The company's Ithaca liaison, Jeff Goodmark, told the Ithaca Times in March that he no longer worked for the company. Goodmark had been instrumental in the company's momentum locally, serving as Lime's public representative at countless public meetings.
Lime had long made it very clear, during public discussions over its future in Ithaca, that the city was not a money maker for the company and that they were either breaking even or losing money by being here, despite its widespread usage. They introduced a fleet of about 300 bikes to Ithaca and parts of Tompkins County over the last three years. The Memorandum of Understanding the company signed with the city did not include an operation obligation, though it was written to last three years from when it was signed in March 2018.
The bike-share program proved popular though somewhat controversial, as residents would regularly vent at city meetings that the bikes were irresponsibly left in walkways, caused increased traffic on sidewalks and would clutter the Commons. Proponents of the program embraced it quickly, though, using it to zip around town and cut down on car usage and gas money.
Bizarrely, four were set on fire in one night in September of last year, a heinous crime that has still not been solved as far as the public knows. The program was actually poised to expand its presence in the city just last year, as it examined an e-scooter pilot program.