After three thwarted attempts since 2010, Baltimore is finally launching Baltimore Bike Share this week, reports Baltimore Brew. For the initial launch Friday, 20 stations and 150 bikes will be available. Ultimately, the plan is for 50 stations and 465 bikes, about half of which will have motorized electric assist. Canadian company Bewegen Technologies has a $2.36 million contract with the city to design and install the stations and operate the service with partner Corps Logistics. Forty-five minute trips will cost $2, and monthly passes $15.
“It took a while for bike-share to be seen as public transportation — that’s such a huge win,” Liz Cornish, executive director of bike advocacy nonprofit Bikemore, told Baltimore Brew. “For years, the city saw it as some kind of flowery amenity.”
Together with the city’s growing bike lane network, “it goes a long way towards changing the fact that not everyone feels it’s safe or comfortable to ride a bike in the city,” she said.
But the system has also drawn the ire of some critics, who say the 50 stations are located almost exclusively in the “White L” — an L-shaped swath of the city’s largely white and affluent neighborhoods.
“Bike-share perpetuates our transit apartheid,” wrote Lawrence Brown, assistant professor at Morgan State University, on the Facebook page for BRACE (Baltimore Redevelopment Action Committee for Empowerment). He has leveled the same critique against the city’s new bike lanes, lamenting that they could run between largely black neighborhoods like Sandtown-Winchester and job opportunities, but do not.
“We are advantaging the people that already HAVE structural advantage instead of building transit nodes that connect people living in transportation deserts to jobs and opportunity,” he wrote earlier this month.
A city spokesperson told the Brew that the DOT “has made a conscious effort to keep equity of the system a paramount goal” and will be offering a cash option for the unbanked. Cornish says she agrees with many of the critiques, but says it will take time to address them given the limited scope of the system.
“The idea that a 500-bike system is going to single-handedly completely undo the issues, like historic housing patterns, that we have in urban planning in Baltimore is not realistic,” she said. “In order for bike-share to be convenient and to encourage use, stations have to be close together.”
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.