By Jack Delaney
Bike-sharing services are a healthy, relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to traverse the city, but which one is the best?
After the initial failure of Ofo, oBike and ReddyGo, two bike-sharing companies have come out on top: Lime and Mobike.
For those unaware, dockless bike-sharing services allow people to access a fleet of bikes through a smartphone app. Bikes can be used for any trip you’d like and don’t have to be returned to a specific docking station.
Dockless bike sharing will play a key role in the future of Sydney transport, but at the moment there are just two key players: Lime and Mobike.
So which one is better? We’ve compared the two to find out.
Which has better bikes?
In Sydney, Lime’s main offering is the Lime-E electric assist bike. It’s not fully electric, but what makes the Lime-E special is that it automatically engages the motor to give you a boost once you start pedalling.
If you’re anything like me (too lazy to want to pedal around the city) then the Lime-E is a godsend. But if you’re looking for something simple, 1-speed, 3-speed and 8-speed bikes are also part of Lime’s fleet.
Meanwhile, Mobike only offers regular pushbikes. Mobike’s bikes have chainless shaft transmission, non-puncture airless tires and are made of 80 per cent recycled materials.
Lime and Mobike bikes have a few extra cool features. Both allow users to view their trip routes, the distance ridden and calories burnt. However, Mobike offers one statistic that Lime doesn’t: the number of carbon emissions saved by riding a bike. It’s not a dealbreaker when choosing what to use, but it’s cool nonetheless.
When it comes to looks, I think both look fairly aesthetically pleasing. Lime has gone with a fitting lime-green colour, while Mobike’s bikes are silver with orange highlights. Both look modern, hip and functional.
Lime’s Lime-E Electric assist bike and its fleet of 1, 3 and 8-speed bikes offer better choices and more advanced features than Mobike. While Mobike’s tracking and carbon emission statistics are cool, it’s not enough to push it over the edge.
Which is easier to access?
Mobike is currently restricted to the inner suburbs of Sydney with a fleet of 500 bikes based in the Green Square area. Any Mobike user in the city will be able to find a bike within walking distance of anywhere between The Rocks and Alexandria, with areas surrounding train stations usually the most densely populated.
While Mobike is available in Sydney and the Gold Coast, Lime is available in Sydney and Brisbane. In Sydney – the only city that is directly comparable – Lime covers a larger area than Mobike. Lime bikes can be found from Watson’s Bay to La Perouse; Marrickville to The Star City Casino.
Lime and Mobike both launched with around 500 bikes per city. However, since their inception, Lime has nearly doubled its fleet size, while as far as I can tell, Mobike’s offering has remained the same. When comparing the availability of bikes on the in-app maps of both Lime and Mobike, the difference is easy to see.
Mobike has a respectable number of bikes available, but Lime offers a bigger fleet that covers a larger area, so its service is definitely easier to access.
Which is easier to use?
Both services work in a similar way. Users download the app, sign up, and look on the map for nearby bikes. Once you’ve found one, scan the QR code to unlock it and you’re good to go.
When you’ve finished sightseeing or riding to work, just lock your bike back up and leave it in a safe, practical area for the next user. Both companies suggest you make sure not to obstruct pedestrians or traffic when parking.
The companies differ in one specific area – finding the bikes. With Lime, you check the map and walk towards the little Lime icon that represents a bike. Most are hard to miss, but if you’re having trouble finding it, you can choose to ‘ring’ the bike, and it will emit a noise to help you locate it.
Mobike also offers the ring feature, but in addition, its app displays directions to help you find it. It’s only a small feature, but it’s something I can see saving some frustration. And you’re not locked in to one bike – if you see another along the way, you can choose to take that one instead.
This one is tough, because both work in almost the exact same way, but Mobike’s ability to show you directions to the bike pushes it just over the edge.
Which offers the best value?
Ah, payment. This is all you care about isn’t it? Of course it is – and for good reason. No one wants to get all sweaty riding a bike around the city if it’s cheaper to drive. The good news is that it isn’t… kind of.
First of all, both applications make it super easy to make your payments. As with most things these days, just connect your bank account details to the app and watch the money fly away.
Using Lime, it costs $1 to unlock the bike and $0.15 for every minute that you ride. That equates to $1 every four minutes, $5 for 20 minutes and $15 per hour. If you plan on using bikes all day, you can keep costs lower by changing bikes for each ride.
Mobike’s standard pay-as-you-go system is $2.99 per 15 minutes. That makes it slightly cheaper than Lime at $12 per hour, and without the $1 unlocking fee.
Mobike also offers a 30-day Mobike Pass for $19.99. The pass allows you an unlimited number of rides under 30 minutes and is an excellent option for tourists or even locals looking for a new way to get to work.
The $3 price difference between Lime and Mobike for the regular pay-as-you-go option is negligible, but for travellers and locals looking for an option to use often, the Mobike Pass makes Mobike the clear winner when it comes to value.
Which one is safer?
There are two main rules to ride-sharing services: don’t steal the bike and don’t leave it in a random spot for someone else to deal with. If you don’t find that too difficult and know how to ride a bike, then the rest is pretty simple.
Both services require you to abide by standard traffic rules, wear a helmet, park away from pedestrian walkways and use hand signals if you’re on the road. Lime bike users have to be at least 16 years of age, while Mobike requires users to be just 15 years old to use the service.
Lime and Mobike also both supply users with helmets, though you are free to bring and use your own if you wish. Each company also has a team dedicated to re-locating, inspecting and repairing their bikes to ensure they continually meet safety standards.
You can report faulty or damaged bikes within the apps for Lime and Mobike, including the ability to take photos and add comments.
Neither service is more or less safe than the other. Both have passed the NSW government’s safety testing and regulations, and you can use either service with the utmost confidence.
What are people saying?
Believe it or not, there aren’t too many online forums dedicated to discussing the merits of ride-sharing companies in Australia. Shocking, I know. With a distinct lack of public conversation about ride-sharing services, the best option is to go to the relevant app stores and see what the general user reaction has been.
First things first: Lime has a better user rating on the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store. On Google Play, Lime is rated 4.5 stars with over 32,000 reviews, and on the App Store it is rated a full 5 stars with 29,000 reviews.
Mobike has a 3.5 star rating on Google Play and a 4.5 star rating on the App Store. On both platforms, Mobike has fewer reviews. Several Mobike users complain of broken bikes, lack of availability, faulty QR codes, a terrible GPS system and being consistently mischarged for rides.
Lime’s reviews aren’t bereft of complaints by any stretch of the imagination, but there are certainly far less completely negative ones. A common theme seems to be that Lime bikes are easy to use, convenient and safe, and offer a great way to get around the city on short trips.
Public opinion definitely favours Lime for its convenience, ease of use, diverse locations and clear app interface.
Final Verdict: Lime
Lime takes out the victory in a closely fought battle. Taking into account the diverse offerings of its fleet, that its bikes are available in far more locations and users appear to be having a better overall experience with it, Lime is hard to pass up as the best bike-sharing offering in Australia.
Having said that, the Mobike Pass is an amazing offering for dedicated users who will ride their bike daily or travellers wanting to see the city on a budget.
While I’ve given Lime the title – and I stand by the decision – I have a suggestion to make: try both for yourself and see how you feel. There’s no harm in trying.
Overall, Lime and Mobike are both high-quality services that show that there is an important place in the future of Australia’s future for ride-sharing companies.
[Images courtesy of Lime and Mobike]