[Update Below] One of Lime's dockless e-bikes out in Queens apparently exploded on Wednesday, injuring one would-be rider.
The FDNY says the incident happened around 8:45 p.m. last night near 79th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Rockaway Beach. You can see the bike in flames in the video below.
A @limebike has exploded in Rockaway Beach, NY. Someone was riding it at the time and experienced minor burns. FDNY responded and extinguished the fire. #limebike #fire #rockaway #ThatAintNormal pic.twitter.com/2m7Dd4MC4s
— Rockaway Times (@Rockawaytimes) July 25, 2019
The would-be rider suffered a non-critical burn to his leg; he told firefighters when they arrived that the battery appeared to explode.
Lime said in a statement: "After an initial investigation this appears to be an isolated incident, and we continue to work with local authorities to assist however possible. We are reaching out to the rider and are thankful the injuries were minor." They added that they believe the fire started after the lock was tampered with, and they do not believe the battery started the fire.
Last summer, the city engaged with five companies to launch dockless pilot programs in four outer-borough neighborhoods that do not have access to Citi Bike. Initially, Rockaway was to be jointly served by Lime and Pace, though the latter company pulled out within three months, citing plummeting ridership at the tail end of summer.
In May, Lime announced that it would begin adding 200 bikes to their current stock of 400 in the area. The pilot has faced its own set of problems though, including users reporting glitches on the app and issues unlocking the bikes. The dockless part of the system, which permits users to leave the bikes just about anywhere, also brought its own adjustment period that is still going on—in May, Gothamist contributor Scott Lynch called the dockless situation a "goddamn travesty... I tried out at least ten bikes, only two of which worked."
The company's NY General Manager, Gil Kazimirov, told Gothamist that "nearly all the bikes are operational and on the ground," and that a team is conducting frequent field inspections.
Update 4:30 p.m.: Lime followed up saying that they've further investigated the incident and believe that a lithium battery that powers the bike's lock is to blame for the fire.
They said: "After our investigation we've concluded that this is an isolated incident, in which someone attempted to forcibly break the bike lock with a sharp object, penetrating the well-protected small lithium battery that powers the lock. This sharp object ultimately ignited the battery—similar to what would happen if one used a sharp object to penetrate a phone or laptop battery. Lithium batteries are safe and those in Lime bikes that power the motor and the lock are surrounded by protective layers of metal and plastic for added security. Our bikes are entirely safe when used properly, and we remind riders to respect the vehicles and that vandalism is dangerous and illegal.”