When the Baltimore Department of Transportation terminated the city’s Bike Share program last month, it gave the company running it a couple of days to get the remaining bikes off the street.
More than a month later, all the blue bicycles are off the street, stored in the maintenance contractor’s lot in Westport, but the empty docking stations still litter city streets.
So what’s happening to all those bikes and docking stations?
The city owns them — and is negotiating to sell them back to the vendor, Bewegen Technologies, according to spokespeople for the company and the city transportation department.
“All that stuff is the city’s equipment,” said Chris King, the Bewegen’s Baltimore-based marketing adviser and spokesman. “We’re trying to work out a deal so that we could buy it back.”
German Vigil, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation, confirmed Wednesday that the city is negotiating such a sale. City and company officials held a conference call Wednesday to discuss the terms, and an agreement is expected to be finalized as early as next week, he said.
City officials want the bicycles and docking stations removed by mid-October, Vigil said. One sticking point in the negotiations is whether the city will pay Corps Logistics, the program’s Westport-based maintenance subcontractor, to pick up the equipment — and if so, how much.
King referred follow-up questions about the negotiations to Braunyno Bello Ayotte, Bewegen’s director of business development and marketing, who did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. His father, Bewegen CEO Alain Ayotte, also did not respond to requests for comment.
The system launched in 2016 with promises to eventually expand to 500 bicycles at 50 stations. Instead, users complained of a widespread shortage of bicycles, broken bikes and an app that did not accurately report the number of bicycles at each dock. The city temporarily shut down the program a year ago, but issues persisted upon its relaunch, and the city eventually decided to abandon it altogether.
Bewegen and Corps Logistics blamed theft and vandalism for the system’s bicycle shortages.
But Transportation Director Michelle Pourciau said she shut down the program because it was “not able to meet the growing demand.” Repeated visits to the maintenance lot in Westport showed hundreds of bicycles sitting in the lot, awaiting repairs amid a long maintenance backlog.
The shuttered program cost the city a total of $3.2 million, according to the Department of Transportation. It’s not clear how much the city stands to gain from a sale of the bicycles and docking station equipment.
Riders who bought memberships have until the end of this week to contact the Department of Transportation at 410-396-6802 for refunds.
The city has since entered into pilot agreements with Bird and Lime to dispatch hundreds of electric scooters throughout Baltimore.
And dockless bicycle sharing is on the way. Lime plans to launch a fleet of them in the coming weeks, after the city amends its agreement with the company to require a one-time fee of $20 per bicycle, Vigil said. He did not know how many bikes Lime plans to introduce, but the agreement allows for up to 1,000.
That $20 fee will be paid for bicycles, instead of the $1-per-scooter-per-day fee Lime and Bird each pay the city, Vigil said. Each company paid Baltimore an additional $15,000 for permission to operate. The amended Lime agreement is expected to go before the Board of Estimates, the city’s spending panel, next week.