Bike share will return to Baltimore this weekend.
Lime Bikes, which has operated a fleet of its dockless rental scooters under a six-month pilot agreement with the city Department of Transportation since August, will drop 100 electric-assisted dockless bicycles on streets this weekend and expand from there, according to German Vigil, a transportation department spokesman.
Lime did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Lime and Bird each agreed in August to pay Baltimore $15,000 and $1 for each dockless scooter or bicycle, to be used toward bicycle infrastructure. The pilot, which replaced the beleaguered Baltimore Bike Share system, runs through the end of February and allows each company to maintain a fleet of no more than 1,000 dockless scooters and bikes.
But Lime told top Baltimore transportation officials before the program was announced that the proposed fee structure appeared “heavily written by Bird,” which offers only scooters, and would preclude Lime from offering bicycles until it could be amended, according to a review of emails obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request.
“A fee structure that hefty may be financially plausible for a scooter only company, but when the bike is only $1 to ride, a fee of $15k annually and then $1/vehicle/day is not feasible for bikes,” Maggie Gendron, Lime’s director of strategic development & government relations, wrote in an email to city officials. “So when cities take on this fee structure they are essentially eliminating bike share as a possibility.”
An amended agreement with Lime, requiring the company to pay the city a flat fee of $20 per bike, was approved by the Board of Estimates, the city’s spending panel, on Oct. 17, according to Vigil.
Baltimore has been awaiting Lime’s first wave of bicycles for the past two months because they were part of a larger order of bicycles to be distributed across many jurisdictions, said Meg Young, the DOT’s shared mobility coordinator.
“They were waiting for a shipment for the whole East Coast,” she said.
Liz Cornish, president of Bikemore, the city’s bicycle advocacy organization, helped write the city’s pilot agreements for the scooter programs. The appetite for the scooters, she said, has “demonstrated that these programs can be successful with proper investment, implementation and marketing tool that reach a much broader population.”
Cornish expressed particular excitement that Lime’s bicycles would be electric, making them easier to use for people who might otherwise be intimidated by a steep hill or a sweaty work commute.
“What’s most exciting about this next phase of dockless vehicles coming to Baltimore is that e-bikes make biking accessible to a much wider array of people,” Cornish said.