In March, it was announced that 500 new rentable bikes will be hitting the streets this fall as part of a city-wide bike share program.
The $2 million program will make the specialized bikes available at stations throughout the city for a small price per hour.
The Department of Transportation is currently in the stages of gathering community feedback on where the bikes should be located and how much the service should cost.
Representatives for the DOT met with residents at Patterson Park as one part of this planning process on Tuesday, May 3.
Jay Decker, the Bike Share Coordinator for the DOT, explained that the community will also be able to give feedback online at www.bikeshare.com. The website has surveys on pricing and virtual maps where you can pinpoint the locations where you think a bike station should go.
At the event, there was a map of the city where people could mark where they wanted a bike station to be. Once completed, there will be 50 bike stations total.
Baltimore’s bike program is unique in that 40-50% of the bikes in the fleet will have electric pedal assistance.
“When we launch, we’ll actually be the largest electric bike share fleet in the Western hemisphere,” said Decker.
The pedals work by providing power per every rotation you make on the bike. Decker explained that a precise algorithm that was created just for the program does about 70% of the work and knows when to increase the speed and power when approaching hills or rough terrain. Basically, the harder you push the pedals, the more power and speed the bike will generate.
This feature is meant to make biking more accessible.
“It really just lowers the barriers to using it. It’s no longer just for someone who’s fit and wants to burn calories. It’s about someone who is afraid of tackling the hills, it’s someone who is overweight or hasn’t worked out in a while, it’s someone recovering from an injury, or when it’s August and 100 degrees and you have to get to work. It makes it easy for them,” said Decker.
The bikes can reach speeds of approximately 15 mph.
“A better question is why hasn’t it been brought to Baltimore sooner?” said Decker when asked about the motivation for bringing these bikes to Baltimore. “Bike share is a global phenomenon, it’s a little embarrassing that it took Baltimore so long.”
He said that most major metropolitan areas have already had successful bike share programs in place for years. For example, Washington D.C. has had bike share since 2010.
“Bike share represents an affordable and healthy addition to our city’s existing transportation options. We are excited to invest in our communities by providing this safe and sustainable way to travel in Baltimore, and this will build on my administration’s efforts to make Baltimore more bike friendly. For Baltimore, expanding our network of sustainable transportation options is critical both to retaining our residents and attracting new families into our city,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake during last month’s announcement.
The DOT said they are hoping that the bike share program has the same success as ZipCar in taking cars off the streets. The rentable bikes will be best suited for short-term trips through urban environments.
“It’s a bike share system for Baltimore but it’s going to be by Baltimore,” said Decker.
By Gianna DeCarlo