The Birds are official. After rising in popularity since they landed in Baltimore last month, the city has announced a pilot program with two major dockless transportation companies.
The partnership is with Lime, a bike and scooter start-up, and Bird, the electric scooter start-up, to enhance transportation options across the city.
“Responding to the needs of those in our city who desire efficient, accessible and low-cost modes of transportation is the basis of these new partnerships,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “We’re confident that these new dockless options will actually expand transportation access for residents and visitors across our city. In the meantime, we’ll continue to assess the demand for these and other innovative options as a 21st century city determined to serve the varied transportation needs of all who live, work, study and visit here.”
Right now, a Bird representative says there are 200 scooters in town. The program allows for up to 1,000 so they will add new ones if the old ones get consistent use.
The pilot doesn't cost any money but it comes at a cost: it replaces the Baltimore Bike Share program which launched in 2016. City officials say the current bike share program is not able to meet the growing demand for rental bikes.
A leading bike advocacy group, Bikemore, supports the move, saying the existing program has significant shortcomings in serving neighborhoods that need transportation the most and the new pilot will fix that.
"Baltimore’s pilot program is designed to place more bikes and scooters in more neighborhoods than ever before. Leaping ahead of many other cities with similar pilot programs, Baltimore City will mandate placement of bikes and scooters in neighborhoods where 40% or more of households earn less than $25,000 a year," executive director Liz Cornish said.
“The city’s approach to alternative transportation such as bike share continues to evolve,” said Jon Laria, Chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Commission. “Today’s announcement is a positive step towards enhanced mobility for all Baltimoreans, and the Mayor and Director should be commended for responding to the changing market by welcoming dockless operations while providing fair and reasonable regulations.”
During the 6-month pilot, the DOT will evaluate the effectiveness of that program and that information will help in the development of regulations.
“We are confident that this new partnership with Lime and Bird will enhance transportation options to a great many more citizens across our city,” said Michelle Pourciau, Director. “The Department of Transportation will be evaluating the effectiveness of dockless technology in order to provide the citizens of Baltimore with a dockless program that enables bike and scooter share systems to operate without physical stations. Our ultimate goal is to give the citizens of Baltimore the ability to access a robust dockless program that works for everyone.”
Bewegen, the bike share program vendor, will remove the existing bike share inventory by Friday. Those who have purchased Baltimore Bike Share memberships should contact the Department of Transportation at (410) 396-6802 by September 30, 2018 for refund information.