If you live in London, there’s a 99 per cent chance that you’ve heard the incessant clicking sound that’s been haunting the streets of the capital for the last year or so. You know the sound I’m referring to—that metal-flicking noise that creeps up on you as a teenager rides past you on a Lime bike, aka the notorious Uber of electric bikes.
As a city girlie, I’m a frequent user. Just envision me deep in the clutches of my daily commute, striving to awaken my inner environmental hero as I embark on a quest to claim a Lime bike. I open the app, carefully scouting for the nearest one, find it, and with a swipe of my Apple Pay, voilà! I’m on my way to work, feeling like I’ve just cracked the code to a greener existence.
But as I make my way to what I believe is my Lime bike, I come face to face with someone attempting to start it without paying for it, using what’s since become known as the “Lime bike push method.”
If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about, let me explain. That distinctive (and repetitive) click-clacking tune is the sound of a bunch of kids making their way through the city, having stolen a parade of bikes. It might be a stroke of genius, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Founded in 2017 in San Francisco, California, Lime is a global producer of electric bikes, scooters, and mopeds. London welcomed the company in 2018, and, for the most part, its neon e-vehicles usually glide by with a ghostly hum, promoting an eco-friendly way to move around the city. However, reports of bike tampering for free rides have surged, accompanied by a furious clicking, which some have cutely labelled “the click-clack of anticapitalism.”
You’d think the noise would deter them, but the culprits are unfazed. I’ve seen numerous TikTok videos sharing the “Lime bike push method,” for a free ride, accumulating massive amounts of views. The method in question involves pursuing a sprint with the bike, breaking the wheel lock, initiating the clicking, and allowing hackers to ride it without power. The bikes are dockless, leading to complaints about reckless dumping and some public safety concerns.
Now, it appears that the incessant clicking of Lime bikes has morphed into the quintessential London soundtrack, especially around schools. It’s almost poetic—the stolen bikes are seen as the sound of youthful rebellion echoing through the urban jungle.
A few days ago, while coming back from work, a ten-year-old, barely able to reach the wheels of his newly stolen possession, was waiting outside my local off-licence as his pint-sized accomplices went in to buy snacks.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, the stolen Lime bikes, after their rebellious joyrides, often find themselves discarded in the streets, often without pedals and abandoned like relics. It’s a cautionary tale for Lime enthusiasts: even when you pre-book a bike on your phone’s app, it might get snatched away, turning your day from great to shite in less than ten minutes.
Dockless Obstructions, a campaign against irresponsible dockless vehicle parking, revealed that school kids “blatantly hack Lime bikes after school for a free ride home,” abandoning unsuccessful attempts across pavements. Successful hacks end with the bikes dumped without care.
Meanwhile, Luca George, an artist from Camberwell, spins the wheels of a miniature Lime bike, creating the miniature sculpture ‘Hacked Limebike Ventriloquism, 2023. It’s a work of art that finds humour and joy in the sound of teens riding Lime bikes for free. Others on social media share in the anarchy, revelling in the clicking noise.
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Lime’s 700-strong fleet costs £1 to start and 23p per minute, making a 30-minute ride £7.90. The hack bypasses Lime’s 18+ user agreement by providing a free ride.
Several councils have reluctantly dragged themselves into action after an onslaught of complaints from the public. Back in April, the ever-dutiful Westminster councillor, Paul Dimoldenberg (who also happens to be Amelia aka Chicken Shop Date girl’s dad) made a statement describing his concern: “We’re also very concerned about the apparent ease with which these bikes can be hacked and essentially used for free. There are videos across social media which demonstrate how to hack Lime bikes, and we hope that all dockless bike companies will do more to tackle this.”
In response, a Lime spokesperson issued a statement sharing its plans to clamp down on the hacking: “We are aware of a limited issue relating to the criminal damage and vandalism of our e-bikes. We are implementing a series of measures to prevent this behaviour, with further hardware solutions set to be rolled out throughout August and September.”
The spokesperson also stated: “We are also in contact with social media platforms, which bear the responsibility of removing criminal content like this if shared by its users.”
So, whether you find the click-clack annoying or oddly endearing, brace yourself because we may have no choice but to put up with it for a whole while longer.