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City bike-sharing program delayed until summer of 2015

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The launch of Baltimore's bike-sharing program will be delayed until next summer after the hardware and equipment vendor selected by the city filed for bankruptcy, officials said Wednesday.

The city is expected to seek new vendors through a bid process as early as June, said Kathy Dominick, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation. The city is rewriting its request for proposal, or RFP.

The city's program, to be called Charm City Bikeshare, was expected to open this spring with more than 250 bicycles available for short-term rentals at 25 stations. The program would be similar to bike-sharing in other cities, including Washington and London.

"The rollout ... has been temporarily delayed," Dominick said. "Unfortunately, DOT could not use the services of an alternative vendor without reissuing a new RFP."

The Public Bike System Co., a Montreal-based company that supplies equipment for other bike-sharing programs, announced in January that it was preparing to file for bankruptcy. The move was intended to allow the company time to restructure its finances, according to a news release.

When established, the bike share will work similar to Zipcar, which provides pickup and drop-off at unmanned stations throughout parts of Baltimore. The bike-share stations were planned for downtown, midtown and Southeast Baltimore.

Establishing the program was expected to cost $1.1 million, of which a state grant through the Cycle Maryland Initiative was expected to cover 80 percent. The city still has access to the grant money, Dominick said.

Bike-sharing programs have been around in Europe for decades, but the concept is relatively new to the United States. In about the last five years, programs have begun in Washington, Boston, New York City and Chattanooga, Tenn.

This is the second time the city has tried to launch a bike-sharing program. B-Cycle of Waterloo, Wis., won a contract in 2010 but failed to establish the program, which would have been funded at the company's expense.

Supporters point to enthusiasm around the bike-sharing program in Washington, which is run by a Portland, Ore.-based company, Alta. Millions of bike rides have been purchased in the nation's capital, where rentals cost $4.50 for 90 minutes, $7 for a day and $75 for a year's access. No insurance is necessary and users can purchase one-time trips, but renters must be at least 16.

The Washington program is used by tourists and residents, officials there have said.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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