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Where did all the bike-share bicycles go?

Bird electric scooters.  July 2018
Provided | Bird
Bird, an electric scooter share program, launched in July without a permit, then returned in August with the city's permission.

It’s harder to find a bike-share bicycle in St. Louis now than it was in April. 

The citywide decrease happened largely because bike-share company ofo, which launched in St. Louis in April, pulled its services from the city in July. The China-based company left many local markets, including St. Louis, to consolidate its operations.

A delay in repair part shipments also forced Lime to pull some of its bikes from the street in the last two months, City of St. Louis officials said.

In August, Lime reported that between 600 and 800 vehicles, both bikes and scooters, were available each day. That’s down from the 800 to 1,000 available bicycles reported in May, June and July. The company’s reports for that period do not include the scooters introduced at the end of July.

“While we did see a dip in the number of bikes out on the road, we, at the same time, increased the number of scooters that we have out there to make sure we are continuing to provide mobility services for the city,” said Sam Sadle, Lime's director of strategic development.

Lime began returning bikes to the streets this week, according to Sadle.

In July, the company reported averaging 10 to 15 repairs per day. That rate doubled in August, even though Lime reported fewer total vehicles on the street. Lime has recycled 34 bikes that had been vandalized since the program started in April.

a LimeBike
Credit Shula Neuman | St. Louis Public Radio
A St. Louis Public Radio employee spotted this LimeBike in the wild earlier in September.

Scooters from Lime and another company, Bird, have become a popular alternative, according to Deanna Venker, city commissioner of traffic.

Venker also said that the loss of ofo — and subsequent shift from bikes to scooters — wasn’t necessarily bad for St. Louis.

Ofo leaving “hasn’t hurt us in any way, shape or form,” Venker said. “It’s the market, and it’s evolving. It opened up a chance for Bird to come in with their supply, and opened up the scooter market for St. Louis as well.”

Venker also noted that people riding scooters should follow the rules of the road: Ride scooters in the streets, not on sidewalks, and avoid parks. Wear a helmet. And if there’s a bike lane, feel free to use it.

Bike-share riders might also see some service changes in winter. Sadle said that generally Lime’s scooters and bikes will remain out in colder months, but the number of vehicles and their locations may change with the weather, especially if riding conditions become unsafe.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.