Months before electric scooters descended upon the Twin Cities, Golden Valley and Edina were looking to be the first in the state to try out dockless, two-wheeled transportation.
The two suburbs had signed agreements with LimeBike to pilot their rental bikes, which are paid for through a smartphone app and can be parked anywhere, at no cost to either city. The Bay Area-based company was expected to bring hundreds of dockless bikes to Golden Valley in April and to Edina in June.
However, the neon green bikes have yet to arrive. The delay has tested officials' patience and left them with less time than they would've liked to learn whether the bike-sharing system is right for them.
"We're losing good, summertime ridership weather," said Mark Nolan, Edina's transportation planner. "With each passing day, we get a little more concerned."
Officials for LimeBike attributed the delays to difficulty finding a warehouse to store and maintain the bikes. They were going to lease a space in Minneapolis but the deal fell through at the last minute, said Gabriel Scheer, LimeBike's director of strategic development.
"We actually had bikes en route and didn't have an address for them to arrive at, so we had to stop," Scheer said.
The company also had issues finding and hiring employees to run their operation in the Twin Cities.
"To meaningfully, thoughtfully hire the right team, it does take time, and I won't pretend it wasn't challenging," Scheer said.
LimeBike has since secured a warehouse, though Scheer did not say where it is. They are expected to ship the bikes next week and to deploy them in the two cities later this month.
A gang of other companies are zeroing in on the Twin Cities this summer to get in on their share of the dockless market.
Bird Rides Inc., for instance, dropped its scooters in Minneapolis and St. Paul without official permission earlier this week. Nice Ride Minnesota will introduce its dockless bikes before the fall. St. Paul may soon get its own fleet of dockless bikes, with LimeBike being one of the potential suitors.
Meanwhile, LimeBike has continued to grow "ridiculously quickly" around the country, Scheer said. The company has also reached out to other cities in the west metro, including St. Louis Park, Robbinsdale, New Hope and Crystal.
Officials in New Hope and St. Louis Park said they would likely adopt bike share in 2019. Robbinsdale City Manager Marcia Glick said the city is also interested.
"At this point, we are ready to watch the roll out. We are not in a hurry," Glick wrote in an e-mail. "If and when they have a good system in place, we would be ready to go."
The company and city officials first want to see how the system works in Edina and Golden Valley. Each city will get fewer bikes than initially estimated and data on how often the bikes are used and where they end up will be collected.
"We would rather have had it start a month earlier, but I still think there's enough time to give this a shot here," Nolan said.
Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris said he was understanding of the delays, considering the City Council jumped on the opportunity as early as possible and it came at no cost to the city.
"We're still very excited and we're trying to be as patient as possible," he said.
LimeBike's agreements with Golden Valley and Edina expire at the end of the year. Harris said the council may extend it or draft a new contract.
"Once we finally get the bikes here, people will be very happy to use them and I think other cities will see that this is something good to try," he said.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753