When school let out for the summer and bicycle thefts began to plague the $2.36 million Baltimore Bike Share system, the manufacturer began working on a new lock for the docks — one that could withstand thieves yanking bikes out by the handlebars.
Bewegen, the Canadian manufacturer, believes it has come up with a solution: a steel "Baltimore lock" that automatically clamps the bicycles in the station when they're pulled on, along with other security measures, said Chris King, its new Canton-based U.S. marketing adviser.
"As soon as [the program] started coming down, we started designing a new lock," King said Thursday. "It won't pull out at all. It'll lock into the station."
During the bike share system's monthlong temporary shutdown, the fleet of bicycles is being sent back to Montreal for refurbishment at Bewegen's headquarters, and company officials are expected to visit Baltimore in the coming weeks to oversee the installation of the upgraded bicycle docks.
Bewegen is paying for the new locks and the refurbishment of the fleet as part of its warranty with the city, King said.
"It's going to be a hard overhaul, a hard reset," he said. "We're stripping them down to the bone."
The program was introduced last fall with 200 bicycles at 20 stations and was supposed to expand to 500 bicycles at 50 stations in the spring. Instead an unprecedented number of thefts — sometimes as many as 30 in a single day, King said — left maintenance crews chasing the unreturned GPS-enabled bikes all over the city.
Many were found damaged, causing a long maintenance backup that left the system devoid of bicycles.
The bike share system is supposed to return to the street on Oct. 15, but King said Bewegen is more concerned with putting in place a high-quality system than rushing to return the bikes to the street.
"We'll take as long as it's going to take to make it right," he said.