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Baltimore Bike Share returns but discrepancies persist with app and number of bikes on the street

Riders took 108 trips on the re-launched Baltimore Bike Share program Sunday after its monthlong shutdown, officials said, but a review of the system Monday by The Baltimore Sun suggested continuing problems.

Only 26 of the promised 50 bicycles were available at the nine reopened docking stations between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday, and the program’s mobile app did not correctly display the number of bicycles at nearly half of those stations.

All of the bicycles available for rent Monday had new “secondary locks” on their front wheel axles, an upgrade paid for by the Canadian manufacturer, Bewegen, after a slew of bike thefts and a maintenance backlog caused the $2.36 million program to close last month.

“The re-opening was very successful,” Jay Decker, the city’s bike share coordinator, wrote in an emailed statement.

About 50 bikes — a quarter of the initial fleet — were supposed to return to the system Sunday, a soft re-launch for a 200-bicycle fleet hobbled by thefts and maintenance issues.

Decker insisted that 50 bicycles were on the street Sunday. He said 22 trips had been taken as of 10 a.m. Monday.

He offered four possible reasons for the bicycles’ being missing from docking stations during The Sun’s review. Some bikes may have been returned to unopened stations, which don’t register on the app; some likely were being ridden during The Sun’s review; others were being rebalanced — a term for being moved from one station to another; and some could have been returned to the maintenance contractor, Corps Logistics, one day after being returned to the streets, Decker said.

He acknowledged a problem with the mobile app’s technology and said Corps Logistics is working to remedy it.

“Corps Logistics is investigating the issue and we expected greater accuracy shortly,” Decker wrote.

During its review, the Sun visited each of the nine open stations slated to get bikes on Sunday. They are at The Can Co. in Canton; Brown Advisory at Bond Street Wharf in Fells Point; Constellation at Harbor Point; Harbor East; McHenry Row in Locust Point; the University of Maryland BioPark in West Baltimore; the BGE Center Plaza downtown; and the National Aquarium and the Visitor Center in the Inner Harbor.

Four of the stations had a different number of bicycles available than were displayed on the app. Bond Street Wharf, Harbor East and the UMD Biopark had more bicycles than the app showed; the Visitor Center had fewer.

A Corps Logistics crew placed two bicycles at the empty Visitor Center docking station, matching the number on the app, after The Sun already had visited and photographed the station.

In the month since the shutdown, the refurbished bicycles have received upgraded GPS technology, paint and hardware, the city department of transportation said.

Users may rent a bike for $2 for a 45-minute single trip or pay $15 for a monthly pass, which offers riders an unlimited number of trips for 30 days.

Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore, the city's top bicycle advocacy group, said she wants to see more investment in bike share. Cornish has advised city transportation officials on the bicycling master plan and bike share program.

Every city that is serious about providing high-quality transportation options to its residents has a functioning bike share system, she said.

“Good intentions don’t get people to work,” Cornish said. “The city has had everyone, including me rooting for them to succeed. Now they need to deliver.”

The city launched the program last fall with 200 bicycles for rent at 20 stations, with plans to expand to 500 bicycles at 50 stations.

Officials hopes to reintroduce an initial fleet of 200 in time for the program's one-year anniversary on Oct. 28 and expand it soon afterward.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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