After a month-long hiatus for some crucial repairs and maintenance, Baltimore Bike Share is returning this weekend.
The program previously plagued by thefts and maintenance delays will be back up and running this Sunday, according to the Baltimore Bike Share Facebook page. Only about 50 bikes will be available to rent on Sunday, but the others will be added “gradually over the next couple of weeks.”
“This is the best way to restart the system,” the page’s operator wrote in response to a local resident who complained about the number of bikes, which amounts to about a fourth of the original fleet.
The $2.4 million program abruptly suspended operations in mid-September after an overwhelming number of its bikes were stolen or required maintenance. Now bike manufacturer Bewegen Technologies has redesigned the bikes with a sturdier, clamping “Baltimore lock” crafted to try to stop thieves from yanking them out at the dock by their handlebars.
The bicycles being reinstalled on Sunday will also come with “always-on GPS” technology and other security and safety improvements, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation said last month. This Sunday marks DOT’s previously announced deadline for resuming service.
Liz Cornish, executive director of biking advocacy nonprofit Bikemore, said many of the bikes were sent back to Bewegen’s headquarters in Canada for repairs, which would help to explain the delay in bringing all of them back into the system right away.
Mike King, a marketing adviser for Bewegen, hasn’t responded to a voicemail requesting comment. Two Baltimore City Department of Transportation officials who help administer Baltimore Bike Share couldn’t be immediately reached Friday.
The city had intended to be in expansion mode at this point in 2017. With about 20 stations and 200 bikes available at launch time last fall, the plan was to install another 30 docks with 300 more bikes around Baltimore within the year. Saturday, Oct. 28 marks the program’s one-year anniversary.
Issues with rolling out bike share programs in cities are common; look no further than Portland, Ore., or nearby York, Pa., for examples. What sets Baltimore apart is the low number of bikes that were introduced into the system after one year, Cornish said. With fewer than 300 bikes in the system, the thefts hit particularly hard, leading officials to hit the restart button.
Cycling advocates still have high hopes that Baltimore Bike Share will help change how city dwellers get around. Cornish said a key to that success is that it’s “not seen as a novelty or an afterthought, but something that is getting significant funding and attention.”
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