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Those bikes parked all over Durham: Here's how much people are actually using them

Which Durham bike share program is the best?

Our business reporter Zach Eanes took all three bike share programs for a spin, Spin, LimeBike and Ofo, and offered his opinion on the pros and cons of each.
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Our business reporter Zach Eanes took all three bike share programs for a spin, Spin, LimeBike and Ofo, and offered his opinion on the pros and cons of each.

Those orange, yellow and lime-green bikes you've been seeing all around the city?

It turns out people are actually using them.

Last month, more than 10,000 trips, roughly 357 per day, were taken on one of the three bike-share services operating in Durham, according to the first batch of data released by the city.

February was the biggest month so far for bike share — possibly because the weather was better than the previous three months — with that month’s trips making up half of the 20,000 trips taken since November.

"I think the biggest takeaway is people are obviously using [the bikes]," said Bryan Poole, a bicycle and pedestrian planner for Durham. "The numbers have also been correlated with the weather, with a big spike in the number of people using it happening on warm days."

"We've had a lot of days with snow and rain, which aren't good for riding bikes, obviously," Poole added. "But we are happy with the numbers we have and what will come when the weather gets nicer and people start using this as a routine thing."

LimeBike, Spin and Ofo — the colorful bikes that have populated streets and sidewalks around central Durham — have been operating in the city since November. The three services, which altogether have put 1,050 bikes on the streets, are currently competing for market share in the Bull City.

The Chinese company Ofo has offered free rides since it started in the city, but typically a ride costs $1 per 30 minutes. Ofo said its ridership has doubled since the beginning of the year.

"And we expect that trend to continue as we enter warmer weather and more folks become familiar with Ofo and dockless bike sharing," said Eric Campbell, general manager of Ofo's North Carolina operations.

Efforts to reach LimeBike and Spin were not immediately successful. No particular bike-share company has yet cornered the Durham market yet, Poole said, with use fairly even across all three companies.

In total, more than 16,000 miles have been ridden on a bike share since the beginning of the year, the city said.

Some hot spots for ridership have been around obvious areas, such as downtown, Ninth Street and Duke University. But ridership has also been strong around east Durham, N.C. Central University and the Miami Boulevard corridor, Poole said.

Around 1,800 people used a shareable bike for the first time in February.

The average trip length was 1.3 miles and the average duration of a trip was 18 minutes.

So far the demographic breakdowns of riders is unclear, as the companies don't track those statistics in their apps. But, the city's transportation department said it was going to start conducting surveys on the streets this summer to get an idea of who is using the bikes, Poole said.

Electric-assisted bikes might also be about to hit the streets of Durham. The city's transportation department recently shared they were testing out an e-bike from the company LimeBike.

The city of Charlotte, which is more than triple the size of Durham, also recently released some data on the usage of bike share. In January, the shareable bikes were ridden more than 17,000 miles and the average trip was 1.08 miles. There were around 1,700 bikes in operating in Charlotte.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes
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