New bike share program provides much needed spark of electricity to mobility in Charleston

May 13, 2022
Doctor David Zaas rides an e-bike as Susan Johnson smiles nearby
Dr. David Zaas, MUSC Health-Charleston CEO became a kid again when he hopped on one of the new electric bikes. He laughed in delight as he zoomed past MUSC Director of Health Promotion, Susan Johnson. Photos by Sarah Pack

Mama always taught you to share. 

And now’s your moment to shine. Thanks to a new bike-share program in Charleston, you can use a bike for a bit, park it somewhere else and then let somebody else use it later. Pat yourself on the back, you just shared!

This is the basic premise of a bike share – stations are placed strategically around the area, and for a small fee, bikes can be taken from or returned there – something Charleston has had in previous years, but now, more people will be able to experience the joys of sharing. That’s because last week, at a launch party for Lime – a bike-share company with roots in hundreds of cities across five continents – the City of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina and the mobility company announced a new partnership consisting of more than 200 e-bikes at stations scattered around the city.

A row of approximately 8 electric bikes wait on kickstands 
More than 20 e-bikes were available to test ride during the launch announcement on MUSC's campus.

But wait, what’s an e-bike? Well, that’s a great question I just asked for you.

An e-bike is an electric bike that doesn’t do all the work for you but, rather, gives you a pedal assist. What that means is, when you pedal, the bike goes, “Whoa, take it easy there Lance Armstrong, let me help you.” So whether you’re pedaling on a flat street or up a steep hill (Charlestonians have heard legends of these), it’s as easy as key lime pie. 

A big reason why the e-bike announcement is so exciting is because pedal-assist opens up the possibility of biking to people of all sizes and ages. And the partnership with MUSC – where one of the more prominent bike hubs is located – is part of the teaching hospital’s continued commitment to advocating for healthier lifestyles. 

“This fits so well with where MUSC wants to go in terms of community, accessibility and most importantly, health and wellness,” said Patrick Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO and vice president for Health Affairs, University.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg also touted the health benefits but couldn’t help getting a little excited about the bikes themselves.

“Wait until you ride one of these bikes,” he said. “Man, you give that thing just one stroke, and you’re off.”

Not only are they easy to ride, they’re hard to miss. Neon green and white with a huge front basket for carrying gear, groceries, a small dog possibly, there were more than 20 bikes available to test ride at the partnership launch near MUSC’s Urban Farm. Faculty members, students and staff took turns testing out the bikes. Riders simply download the Lime app, enter in their personal information – MUSC employees get a 70% discount on all rides – and they’re off. 

MUSC Health-Charleston CEO David Zaas, M.D., could not have look more delighted to be on one of the e-bikes, his white lab coat flapping in the wind as he zoomed around the giant oak tree near the Dental Clinic. 

“That was great!” he said as he smiled at everyone.

Kimberly Kascak, assistant professor in MUSC’s office of interprofessional initiatives, wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, so she stopped and gave one of the bikes a try – and she was pretty impressed.

“If they’re going to have stations all around town, I could park my car where there isn’t as much traffic, hop on one of these and get where I want to go quickly and without having to worry about parking,” she said. “I could actually see using this.”

To begin, Lime will have 27 e-bike stations spread across the peninsula. How to pay, riding rules as well as where those stations are located are all available within the app. In the coming months and years, Lime also hopes to expand to West Ashley, Mount Pleasant and North Charleston.

A woman in scrubs rides an electric bike 
MUSC employee Najah Jones tries out one of the new Lime e-bikes.