Anticipated plans to bring bike sharing to Baltimore are now in full reset mode.
Baltimore City’s efforts to implement a bike-sharing program in the city by this fall suffered a set back this summer when an exclusive negotiating agreement with B-Cycle — a bike-sharing company operating in 15 cities — expired without a deal. Any future bike-sharing program in Baltimore is now at least another year away, according to the Department of Transportation.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Wisconsin-based B-Cycle last November. That deal expired because B-Cycle was unable to secure enough local sponsorship to move forward with implementation, B-Cycle’s Brian Conger told Baltimore.
“There’s some great community support for bike sharing, but to do the business side is complicated and we need a certain number of [private] sponsors and financial support,” Conger said. “There weren’t enough dollars committed for us to feel comfortable going forward.”
(Bike-sharing programs, for those who haven’t seen the initiatives in other cities, offer short-term bicycle rentals via strategically placed stations throughout downtown areas, offering another form of inexpensive transportation for short trips.)
Conger said B-Cycle looks to the local corporate and business community, as well as institutions like universities, for financial support, which can include, for example, hosting bike-sharing stations. Advertising at bike stations and on the bikes themselves are also offered to businesses and institutions in return for financial support. Conger said B-Cycle needed an overall commitment of roughly $1.25 million over five years to move forward, which wasn’t reached.
Adrienne Barnes, of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, noted in an email that the City, with the support of a state grant, has committed $1.3 million to the start-up and construction of bike-sharing stations. The City will not be funding the operation of any bike-sharing program, however. She added that Baltimore City’s DOT is currently in discussions with Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., the same company that runs Washington D.C.’s successful Capital Bikeshare, to provide bike sharing here.
“We continue to work with potential vendors to operate the system at no further cost to the City,” Barnes wrote. “We are committed to bringing bike sharing to Baltimore. Given the delay, we hope to have the system operational in September 2013.”
In two years of existence, the Capital Bikeshare program, now with 189 stations, including those in Arlington and Alexandria, has accounted for 2.85 million trips by bicycle. The Capital Bikeshare program now has more 18,000 monthly and annual members, averaging 50,000 rides a week. The annual membership in the Capital Bikeshare program is $75; the first 30 minutes of any ride are then free.
Montgomery County expects to join the Capital Bikeshare system next year.
Alta launched Boston’s Hubway bike-sharing program last year and recently was recently awarded a contract to start a program in Portland. B-Cycle runs bike-sharing programs in Denver, Chicago and Madison, among other cities.