TikTok videos showing how to hack Lime bikes and use them for free means the vehicles can be "dumped with impunity" as the riders are untraceable, a London council has said.
Westminster City Council is calling for dockless bike companies to “crack down” on hackers, after videos circulated demonstrating how to bypass the dockless bike software.
Particular concerns have been raised that users can potentially dump bikes on the pavement without facing punishment. The council says it receives “daily complaints” about dockless bikes being abandoned on the pavement and has called for apps to be improved so residents and businesses can report badly-parked bikes more easily.
A Lime spokesperson said the company was aware of a “limited issue related to unlocked bikes being ridden without any power in London, and have worked to identify hardware solutions to prevent it, which are now being tested”.
The firm also says it is encouraging users to report any videos of tampering or vandalism to its e-bikes to the relevant social media platform, and is “seeking to work with the likes of TikTok to implement a process where they are removed”.
Westminster councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, cabinet member for city management, said: “The council receives daily complaints about dockless e-bikes being dumped on the pavement, particularly in areas like Soho where the streets are narrow and pedestrians are potentially put in danger.
“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.
“Our priority has always been the safety of residents and visitors to the city and keeping our pavements clear. If these bikes are hacked, the rider is untraceable and the bikes can simply be dumped with impunity.”
ebiketips reported back in February that people have been hacking Lime e-bikes to ride them without power, with the micromobility firm saying then that it had developed a hardware solution to prevent this.
Last month, Lime bikes introduced a minimum £10 fine for anyone who dumped an e-bike in Soho or Covent Garden. HumanForest has also introduced a £15 fine for irresponsible cyclists, and said it will ban repeat offenders and open a hotline for people to report misplaced bikes.
Lime’s full statement to ebiketips said: “Lime offers emission free travel to thousands of Londoners every day, and has become an integral part of people's daily routines and the growing levels of cycling in our capital. This is a promising trend in context of the global climate crisis we face, and as cities around the UK look to reduce car journeys. Safety is our highest priority for every Lime ride. For our riders and for everyone sharing the streets.
“We are aware of a limited issue related to unlocked bikes being ridden without any power in London, and have worked to identify hardware solutions to prevent it, which are now being tested. We also have other extensive measures in place to prevent our bikes from being tampered with, which includes wheel locks, tamper alarms, and enhanced cybersecurity for our cloud operations system.
“We encourage users to report any videos of tampering or vandalism to Lime e-bikes to the relevant social media platform, and are seeking to work with the likes of TikTok to implement a process where they are removed.”