In a little under two weeks, bike share will officially launch in Baltimore. That means if you don't own a bike, but feel like going for a ride, you can do so through a rental station for as little as $2.
Twenty rental stations are expected to open on Oct. 28.
The station locations were decided by the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, with input from a number of people including bike advocacy organizations like Bikemore.
“The three things that came up the most in deciding where stations are located was number one, density,” said Liz Cornish, the executive director of Bikemore.
They needed to make sure the stations are close enough to each other so that riders can easily return bikes.
“Second thing that we think about is infrastructure, so that means bike lanes but also things like electrical conduit,” Cornish said.
The stations require electricity, and half of the bikes are equipped with battery-powered motors. The specially designed models by Bewegen can help with pedaling so that riders can more easily tackle hills, even bike to work without breaking a sweat.
“And the third was equity. We looked at a place where we could make sure on day one launch as many diverse residents had access to the system as possible,” Cornish said.
The city plans to install 50 bike rental stations, a number of them downtown and several on college campuses, but some argue that the tentative station locations don't serve all of Baltimore's communities.
“Maybe 41 that are in the 'White L,' but then five of them are actually near predominantly white institutions like Johns Hopkins or the University of Maryland,” said Dr. Lawrence Brown, a member of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition.
The “White L” refers to the distribution of Baltimore’s population by race, with more of the white population being centered down the middle of the city.
“It's just really shocking to see here we are yet again in 2016 planning and implementing another transit system that won't service our black neighborhoods in the city,” Dr. Brown said.
Cornish said it was a complicated discussion. Five public meetings were held, and the stations were constrained by engineering and structural issues. Also, while bike share can be a new way to commute, it's not the answer to Baltimore’s flawed transit system.
“It’s important to recognize the limited scope of this one particular transportation system. We're talking about a very small capital project in relationship to something like a bus system,” Cornish said.
“People in East and West Baltimore are living in transit deserts and they're experiencing transit detention being on buses and trains and other modalities for over 45 minutes, and that's a waste of people's time. People should be able to get to work, school, and wherever they're headed to in less than 45 minutes so that they can live a high quality life,” Brown said.
All 50 stations are expected to be in place by spring.