The Baltimore City Board of Estimates is expected to approve a bike-sharing grant agreement with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) at its scheduled Wednesday evening meeting.
The approval of the bike-sharing agreement represents the next step in bringing a bike-sharing program—now found in more than 500 cities worldwide—to Baltimore after a similar effort last year fell apart. Bike sharing programs, for those unfamiliar, rent bicycles—for a small membership or fee—from convenient public stations around cities, typically for short trips. The idea is to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions while providing cheap, healthy alternative transportation.
Michael Jackson, director of pedestrian and bicycle access for MDOT, told Bike Shorts that several minor hurdles remain in the process, including a final review by MDOT’s Darrell B. Mobley, the transportation department’s acting secretary. But Jackson said the go-ahead for Baltimore City’s bike-sharing program is “95 percent” certain at his point.
Part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “Cycle Maryland” initiative, the state is funding the majority of the start-up costs of the bike-share program with a grant of $881,300. Baltimore efforts to implement a bike-sharing program in the city by last fall ended when an exclusive negotiating agreement with B-Cycle—a bike-sharing company operating in 15 cities— expired without a deal when the company couldn’t line up enough private, local sponsors to offset the capital start-up costs.
Jackson said that Baltimore is working on a deal with Alta Bike Share, the company that Washington, D.C. contracted with to develop, design and launch its successful Capital Bikeshare program. Capital Bikeshare, which has expanded to include nearby Arlington and Alexandria, recently surpassed 4 million rides since its September 2010 launch. The Capital Bikeshare program now has more than 1,800 bikes at 200-plus stations.
Capital Bikeshare offers daily, monthly and yearly membership rates (yearly rates, for example, are $75) and the first 30 minutes of any ride after a membership is purchased is free.
In an email, Baltimore bicycle and pedestrian planner Nate Evans said Phase I of the proposed Baltimore bike-sharing program would include 250 bikes at probably 25 stations.
“We should double the size (of the number of bikes and stations) for Phase 2,” Evans wrote, adding that the best hope for the launch of project is April 2014. Evans also said the city is waiting on final approval from the state on its proposed contract with Alta.
Last month, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation signed a contract with Alta that will bring an estimated 50 bike stations and 450 bikes to the county.
The City of Frederick and Howard County are also currently exploring bike-sharing programs.
Similar to Baltimore, College Park also received a state grant to launch last year to launch a bicycle sharing program.