Audio Stories Reports

CDA reporters challenge Lime’s glowing report on London scheme

CDA challenges Lime's glowing report on London scheme

Reported by Jill

Published on Friday, August 25th, 2023

Audio Stories Reports

CDA reporters challenge Lime’s glowing report on London scheme

CDA challenges Lime's glowing report on London scheme

Written by Jill

Published on Friday, August 25th, 2023

On 19th July 2023, Lime released a report on its e-bike operations in the capital entitled: Lime in London – Assessing the
benefits of shared e-bike services and recommendations for future regulation.

Written by consultancy company Steer, the report presents a positive picture of Lime’s performance in London from January 2019 to March 2023, including its contributions to the environment, the economy and public health.

Due to the negative experiences disabled people have had with badly parked Lime bikes in Camden, CDA spoke to Lime’s Senior Public Affairs Manager Hal Stevenson to find out more about the report and its findings.

Hal told CDA Lime in London is an independent report and that Lime ‘fully endorses’ (supports) all its findings.

After the interview, CDA carried out some checks on the Steer/Lime claims, with the help of musician and environmental activist Hamish Birchall, and decided whether they are true or false. Our findings are below, along with snippets of the interview, quotes from Dr Anne de Bortoli, the carbon neutrality research lead at the Polytechnique Montreal and a round up commentary by myself.

Lime/Steer claim
The Steer report is independent.
True or False?
Make up your own mind after reading the following: Since this story was first posted, it has emerged that the author of the Steer report is Matthew Clark, an Associate Director of Steer who is also Chair and a Trustee of the charity CoMoUk.

CoMoUk is a champion of all forms of shared transport, including e-bike and e-scooter schemes, and is also part-funded by Lime and other shared e-bike providers.

When the local environmental activist Hamish Birchall questioned Steer on the independence of its Lime report, Steer merely stated it was impartial, without referring to the report’s author’s connection to a pro e-vehicle organisation.

Lime claim
8% (nearly 1 in 10 people) would have used a private car, car club or taxi if they had not been able to use a Lime bike.
True or False?
True, but the inclusion of taxis and car clubs in this figure makes it meaningless. If a person switches from a taxi or a car club vehicle to an e-bike that does not mean the cars involved are no longer on the road as other people will still be using them. This means Lime has not been as successful in reducing the number of cars on the road as it is making out.

Lime claim
By supporting Londoners to ditch their cars and use e-bikes instead, Lime has saved 370 tonnes of carbon emissions in the capital.

True or False?
False. The calculations for this figure are based on the idea that taxis and car club cars will not be on the road if someone uses a Lime bike for a single journey instead those cars. However, as explained, other people may well be using those cars at the time. The figure is therefore not accurate.

Furthermore, the 370 tonnes figure does not take into account the carbon emissions generated during the production and transportation of Lime’s London fleet or the negative carbon impact of encouraging people to switch from walking to riding e-bikes.

0.007% – the carbon savings achieved by Lime in 2020, expressed as a percentage of all road-based carbon emissions in the ten London boroughs in which it has a contract to operate.

In any case, 370 tonnes over 4.1 years (equal to 88.8 tonnes per year) is a tiny percentage of the combined road transport carbon emissions of the 10 London boroughs in which Lime has an e-bike contract.

In 2019, the yearly saving of 88.8 tonnes represented just 0.006% of these borough’s total road transport emissions while in 2020 it amounted to 0.007%.

Dr Anne de Bortoli, the carbon neutrality research lead at the Polytechnique Montreal, told CDA: “The methodology used in Lime’s study is not suitable to support the conclusion that shared e-scooters are good for the environment. Fortunately the paper has not been accepted in scientific journals yet, but eventually they will find a way to publish it.”

Despite Dr Bortoli’s concerns about the quality of the Steer/Lime study, she is positive about the role e-vehicles can play in nudging people away from more environmentally harmful travel modes. She said: “Shared e-scooters won’t change drastically the face of mobility overnight, but my conclusions are that they are still useful to change our mobility habits, and especially help people buy their own e-scooter, that present very good environmental performances.”

Lime claim
The worst cases of anti-social parking of Lime bikes is not done by Lime bike riders. Instead, it is done by other people who move the bikes after they have been parked appropriately by responsible Lime riders.

True or False?
It isn’t possible to say, but myself and Hamish Birchall have seen many Lime bike riders park the bikes in an anti-social way.

Hamish said: “Some Lime riders park considerately, and there is some evidence that Lime bikes are being targetted locally by being turned upside down.”

He added: “But I would say, having documented our local hire bay and nearby streets over many months, there are many Lime hirers who simply can’t be bothered to un-hire their e-bikes in authorised bays, leaving them on pavements even when authorised bays are just a few metres away.”

I have also taken many photos of badly parked bikes. Even if some riders don’t park them badly, the point is Lime still gives people the opportunity to park bikes badly by providing the bikes in the first place and not having a system whereby they have to be securely parked in bays, like with Boris bikes.

On the issue of anti-social parking, Dr Bortoli said: “The problem of shared e-scooter on sidewalks is quite sad with regards to people with a reduced mobility.”

Lime claim
Riding Lime bikes is good for people’s health.
True or False?
True. There is some evidence that riding an e-bike is a moderate-level activity and that it can help with your heart health. There is also evidence that riding an e-bike is good for older people’s mental health. However, the Fraunhoffer report shows that between 40% and 64% of Lime e-bikes users in different cities would have walked if they had not used a Lime bike. It is not clear if riding an e-bike is better for your health than walking.

On health, Dr Bortoli said: “In terms of city dwellers health, shared e-scooters are good because they avoidsome atmospheric emissions.”

Interview clippings about parking – part 1

Interview clippings about parking – part 2

Interview clippings about parking – part 3

My comments

The Steer report says London needs 10,000 more e-bike parking spaces, giving Londoners’ access to 25 e-vehicle drop off points every square kilometre.  Imagine how many more e-bikes there will be if they do this? And if people still park badly, just think of all the bikes that will be all over the pavement!

Lime bike on pavement by Highgate road. Photo by Jill Huntesmith.

Putting these bays in would cost £20 million. In my opinion, spending this amount will be a waste of money and it will not solve the problem of people leaving bikes on the pavement.

Some people put the bikes back in the right place after they have finished with them, but other riders just leave them lying around because they cannot be bothered to put them in the bays. Disabled people, including blind people, can trip over the e-bikes left laying around.

bike on pavement
Lime bikes parked on pavement in Camden. Photo by Jill Huntesmith

Lime’s Senior Public Affairs Manager Hal Stevenson told CDA that Lime riders are not responsible for the worst cases of anti-social parking. He said Lime has photo evidence showing that non-riders position the bikes to block pavements after the riders have parked them appropriately.

It is easy to blame antisocial parking on other people, but I have seen Lime riders leave their bikes on the pavement in Camden.

The e-bike companies need to operate like the Boris bikes (or Barclays or Santander bikes – they keep changing their names). Those bikes are not left all over the pavement. Camden should’ve made sure this parking problem was solved before issuing a contract to Lime and Human Forest.

bikes parked in disabled bay.
Lime and Human Forest bikes parked in disabled bay in Camden. Photo by Hamish Birchall.

Camden and the e-bike companies need to solve the problem first before they install new bike parking bays.

The Steer report also said Lime bikes help people do exercise. Well, they help some people to exercise, but we must remember that not everyone can ride a standard bike and Lime does not provide any adapted bikes for disabled people. Also, the exercise you get on e-bikes is not as good as with normal bikes because they are battery-assisted.

bikes parked on pavement
Bikes parked on pathway in Camden. Photo by Hamish Birchall.

Another claim in the Steer report is that Lime bikes help the environment. I’d say they are helping the environment a little bit, but it isn’t right what they are saying about taxis not being on the road if people use an e-bike instead. Taxi drivers need to feed their families and they will still drive even if someone uses an e-bike instead. Also their bikes use batteries that are bad for the planet.


Bike and scooter on pavement
E-bike and scooter on pavement. Photo by Robert Spigel.


bike parked in road
Human Forest and Lime bikes parked in the middle of the road. Photo by Jill Huntesmith.
Bike parked on pavement.
Lime bike parked in middle of pavement in Camden. Photo by Hamish Birchall.


image of white van and a green bike being loaded into it.
Photo of a diesel powered van being used to carry Lime bikes. The photo shows Lime does not have a fully electric service fleet for its London operations. Photo by Hamish Birchall.
bike parked in road
Bikes parked in the middle of a Camden road. Photo by Gloria Bradley.

Written by Jill

Hi. My name is Jill. I work for the Synergy team - a speaking up group for People with Learning Disabilities. I am also a JARGON BUSTER. I go to meetings and to make sure people don’t speak in jargon I have a bell to ring, and Jargon John comes with me. It is very important for me to speak up for people with learning disabilities when it comes to Jargon. In everyday life it is on TV, in hospitals, schools, all over the place. It is my job to stop people using Jargon and use Easy Read with pictures. It is very important for the future. A future where a person with a learning disability can be independent but still get the help they need to guide them in the right direction. Jargon is not a good thing. It is only there to make you look good. People with learning disabilities need to know what is being said in their meetings.

Read all of Jill's articles


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