Any claim you have against LimeBike or ofo would be settled by a private arbitrator, with no opportunity to appeal the arbitrator's decision.

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Have you rented a LimeBike or an ofo for a quick trip to the store? Or to get from a distant bus stop to your house? Or for a weekend jaunt?

If so, you’ve also given up your right to take the company to court if something goes wrong.

Both companies require potential riders to agree to a user agreement in their mobile apps before they can rent bikes. In those user agreements, riders agree to give up their right to sue the companies if there’s a dispute.

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Say, for instance, the wheel fell off a bike you were riding, causing a crash. Any claim you have against the company would be settled by a private arbitrator, with no opportunity to appeal the arbitrator’s decision.

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LimeBike is similarly blunt (and similarly emphatic in, again, all caps): “BY AGREEING TO ARBITRATE, EACH PARTY IS GIVING UP ITS RIGHT TO GO TO COURT AND HAVE ANY DISPUTE HEARD BY A JUDGE OR JURY,” LimeBike writes.

Both companies also force you to forgo your right to participate in any sort of class-action — either a lawsuit or in arbitration. You’ve got to face the companies on your own.

Forced arbitration, in which companies require you to waive your right to go to court as a prerequisite to using their product or service, is not unique to bike share. You can’t use Amazon without agreeing to forced arbitration. Fifteen of the 20 largest banks that issue credit cards used forced arbitration, according to a 2015 federal study. Seven of the eight largest cellphone-service providers used an arbitration clause, according to the same study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And just this spring the Supreme Court ruled that employers can force their workers to submit to arbitration, rather than grouping together to take legal action.

Ofo and LimeBike did not respond to requests for comment.

Spin, the third and smallest bike-share company operating in Seattle, does not require forced arbitration in its user agreement.

There’s a good chance you didn’t read any of these user agreements, but it’s tough to blame you. They’re not brief.

LimeBike’s is 57 pages and more than 16,000 words long. Ofo’s is comparatively concise at just under 6,700 words.

Other interesting points found in the user agreements:

  • LimeBike requires adults to have a driver’s license to ride their bikes, but gives no explanation as to why. Spin and ofo do not require a driver’s license.
  • You must be 18 years old to use ofo; 16-year-olds can use Lime with a guardian’s permission, and 13-year-olds can use Spin with a guardian’s permission.
  • LimeBike’s weight limit is 300 pounds; ofo’s is 220 pounds; no listed weight limit for Spin.

The city of Seattle is working to finalize permanent regulations for the bike-share providers, which have been operating in Seattle for about a year. The Seattle Department of Transportation expects to present proposed regulations, which have been repeatedly delayed, next week.