Good things come to those who wait. After six years of lessons learned and a few false starts, today the city approved Bewegen (Be-Wee-Gen, hard "g") as the City's official bike share vendor. The system, which is set to launch in Fall 2016, will include in it's initial phase 50 stations and 500 bikes, 200 of which will be Pedelec bikes making it the largest fleet of pedal assist bikes in North and South America.
The bikes, which we got to test ride today, are some of the lightest bike share bikes on the market. The non-pedal assist bikes feature eight gears. Both bikes feature a front basket that can hold up to 55 pounds. Both bikes feature a skirt guard, front fender, enclosed drivetrain, front and rear lights, and a digital display and speaker.
The Pedelec bikes feature a battery that can operate autonomously for one day (60 miles, or 24 hours) on a single one hour charge.
The stations are fully modular. The City purchased 5 solar canopy stations. Stations can also be quickly configured using geofence technology--creating flexibility to create additional stations to coincide with special events (think O's games or Artscape).
The stations automatically lock the bike once docked, and have an option to lock the bike using an integrated cable lock if the station is full. The system also allows you to temporarily lock the bike outside of the system to help accommodate quick errands. But similarly to how Zipcar works, in that only the member with that car reserved can unlock the vehicle, new riders can only unlock bikes from official docking stations or kiosks, and the member using that bike can only lock or unlock it outside the docks.
Station locations have not been finalized. Bewegen will work closely with the City and Bikemore to engage in a thorough and equitable community engagement process to ensure citizens needs are considered. We can say with confidence though, that given the size of the initial launch and the need for the system to remain densely sited, it's impossible for every Baltimore neighborhood to receive a station during Phase One. Bikemore will be advocating for priority areas that balance the need for bike share to serve as a transportation option--connecting our downtown work centers to surrounding neighborhoods, and providing equitable access to bike share as a viable recreation option in places like Druid Hill Park and Lake Montebello. Removing barriers to bicycling begins with providing access to biking as a form of recreation.
Check Out Process
Membership pricing has not yet been determined. We do know however, that bikes will be available for check out using a credit card at kiosk for daily rentals and RFID key similar to Capitol Bike Share or a cash membership option for the unbanked for monthly or annual members. One of the most exciting payment options includes integration with the Charm Card transit pass, and the ability to check out the bike using a mobile phone app.
It's important to note that integration with Capital Bike Share in DC was not part of the initial contract, but the barriers to integration have more to do with coordinating each jurisdiction, and less to do with technology. Bewegen is confident that the technology available on their bikes leaves the door open to integrating with Capital Bike Share down the line. We will continue to advocate for this integration with Capital Bike Share and look forward to beginning discussions with our partners in DC.
Building Community Support for Bike Share
One of the best things bike share does is normalize every day bike riding. We know the number one way to improve the safety of people who bike, is to increase the number of people who ride. Bike share programs do this incredibly well, providing a comfortable, stable upright riding experience--without having to think through some of the barriers to bike riding: where will I lock up, where will I store my bike in my home, what if I want to ride to a location but take transit back, etc. Bike share also has the ability to dramatically improve first and last mile solutions for transit riders. In a city with a challenged public transportation system, bike share also has the ability to limit transfers, improving the on time reliability of transit.
But given the challenges the City has faced upon launch, and the many years the naysayers have had to develop their gripes, the politics of launching bike share presents a real challenge. One of the most exciting parts of the contract includes Bewegen locating their North American headquarters in Baltimore, creating approximately 80 new local jobs. Already having launched a successful program in Birmingham, AL, and set to launch Richmond, VA ahead of Baltimore, Bewegen and their pedal assist bike share systems are positioned for growth. Having their headquarters in Baltimore has the real potential to put us on the map as innovators in how bicycles integrate into urban life. Also, we were impressed at the City's ability to turn a $2.3 million dollar contract into 80 local jobs, solidifying the fact that bikes truly mean business.
It's also really important that our members have all the facts available to them, so that they can truly be the new system's best ambassadors. That is why we are partnering with BCDOT to provide a bike share open house where Bikemore members will have a chance to test ride the bike share bikes and ask questions of city staff. Stay tuned for our announcement of the date and time of that event. We expect to host it sometime in April or May.
The community engagement process to answer questions and determine specifics of operation including station siting and membership rates is just beginning. Bikemore is committed to leading this effort in partnership with the City so that an inclusive, successful system of bike share in Baltimore is achieved. We are currently soliciting funds to help this effort. If you or your organization would like to support us please donate here, or contact Liz Cornish, firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.