- Lime, a startup best known for its e-scooters, recently launched a moped-sharing service in NYC.
- I spent a couple of hours putting the new two-wheelers through their paces in Queens.
- The speedy mopeds are ideal for trips that are too far to bike or inconvenient on public transit.
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A few years back, a younger and more foolish me stumbled across the world of vintage mopeds and thought I’d found the perfect daily driver – a vehicle that’s dirt cheap, easy to park, faster than a bike, and, in New York at least, only requires a driver’s license.
If Peter Parker could trust one to deliver pizzas in “Spider Man 2,” I could surely rely on one to putter around town.
So I scoured Craigslist, pounced on a $600 model from 1978, and hit the road. But while my Puch Maxi probably served some fuel-conscious commuter well during the oil crisis, 40 years later, it struggled to break 32km/h, and acceleration was practically nonexistent. I couldn’t street park it without a slight breeze toppling it over. In most cases, I was better off riding my bike or the subway.
Fortunately, two-wheeled technology has come a long way in the last four decades as sputtering, finicky two-stroke engines have given way to smooth, electric motors. These days you don’t even need to deal with owning a moped to get around on one, thanks to a host of rental apps cropping across the country.
I tried out New York’s newest such service, from the bike- and scooter-sharing startup Lime, and found it was a delightful way to move through the city. No fumes. No carburetor adjustments. No fussing over parking. Just a fun, quick, and convenient way of getting around.
Signing up was a breeze, and I was able to ride within 10 minutes of downloading Lime’s app.
The longest part of the process was a series of training videos and quizzes about how to ride safely, a welcome step given the clear risks of piloting anything in city traffic, especially an unfamiliar vehicle. Lime also offers in-person riding lessons and gives new riders their first 15 minutes free, so they don’t feel the need to rush into things.
Since Lime’s mopeds (scooters, really, since they don’t have pedals, but we’ll go with the company’s lingo here) are registered motor vehicles, you need a driver’s license to operate one. The app asked to scan my ID, matched it to my face, and I was off to the races.
You can reserve a ride ahead of time or just walk over to one of Lime’s bright green mopeds and unlock it by scanning a QR code. The app then prompts you to put on a helmet – either your own or one of the two Lime provides in the moped’s trunk – and uses your phone’s front-facing camera to ensure compliance.
I strapped on one of Lime’s lids, took a seat, and – after getting a sense of the turn signals and other controls – rocked the moped off of its center stand.
Pulling out into the street for the first time felt a little shaky, even though I’d tried a rival service, Revel, once upon a time. For the first 15 minutes or so of my maiden voyage, I wobbled through starts, stops, and turns as I got used to the heavy moped, which has a totally different feel than a bike or e-bike.
Pretty soon, though, I got more comfortable and found the moped to be both a fun and practical way of whizzing around the city. You get the speed of a car, the maneuverability of a quick e-bike, and the convenience of a bike share, but you don’t have to think too hard about parking or finding an available dock.
Crucially, Lime’s mopeds are speedy enough to keep up with traffic and dart away from sticky situations. Officially, they top out at 45km/h, but I was able to hit 30, a speed that’s utterly uneventful in a car but feels more like 50 on two wheels.
Though a bit frightening at times, that solid top speed – paired with brisk acceleration – meant I never had trouble staying ahead of cars or felt like I was holding someone up, which went a long way toward making me feel safe. Liberal use of the horn didn’t hurt either.
Even after spending a couple of hours in the saddle, though, some things still felt dicey. Hanging a left in a jam-packed intersection never stopped sketching me out. And, more than once, pedestrians darted out in front of me because they couldn’t hear the whisper-quiet e-moped approaching.
I’m not the germaphobic type, so sharing a helmet with somebody else didn’t gross me out like it does some people. But I’ll admit that when I let out a sneeze into the helmet’s closed visor, I couldn’t help but imagine how many other riders had done the same before me.
Ending a ride is as simple as starting one. You just need to find a parking spot that’s legal for the next 24 hours – you’re on the hook for any tickets the moped gets over that time – and that’s within Lime’s parking zones, which are clearly marked in the app.
That flexibility – plus the speed and convenience that Lime’s mopeds offer – makes them fantastic for getting places that are a bit too far to bike or poorly served by public transit, so long as you don’t need to venture outside the app’s service areas in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.
Lime hopes that its e-mopeds, bikes, and scooters will give New Yorkers more sustainable options for getting around, ultimately reducing dependence on cars and slashing congestion.
And it may very well steal some people away from cars and taxis since, at $0.39 per minute plus a $1 unlocking fee, a quick trip on a Lime moped won’t break the bank. Two of my trips – together about 5km over 30 minutes – totaled $16.
I figure if I sell my dusty old moped for what I bought it for, that shakes out to a solid 25 hours of Lime cruising, which should be a good start.