Baltimore Bike Share Only Has Four Bikes
TLDR: I rode around all of the city to all 25 bike share docks and only found four working bikes.
If you read any of my stuff, you know that I am a pretty big bike advocate and love exploring Baltimore. So there are probably a short list of people who are rooting for Baltimore Bike Share more than I am. I have been to Portland, New York City, and DC and seen bike shares that are all over the city and widely used (I have also been to Boise, which has a much, much more modest bike share).
Baltimore is on the verge of being a first class, 21st century city that attracts the millennials that will start increasing the tax base, and turning around the population decline. But one of the things that needs to happen to compete with cities like New York, DC, Pittsburgh, Philly, or even west coast cities like San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle is a working bike share (and mass transit) system. We have an image problem with the crime that regularly plagues many of our neighborhoods, but even our nicer areas sometimes don’t feel like they compete with other comparable cities.
Thats why the trajectory of our bike share program is particularly troubling. It was launched last October so that kinks could be shaken out of the system. The plan was for the second wave of docks to be rolled out by May, in time for Bike to Work Day in mid May. We are now in September, which is the month that the docks are supposed to be installed, but color me skeptical.
I walk through the Inner Harbor to Camden Yards every day on my way to work, so I have slowly seen the National Aquarium and Camden Yards bike stock dwindle over the months.
And this is not a new problem. I have only relied on Bike Share a handful of times, but it has failed me in two major ways already. The first was outlined in a previous version of Baltimore Around the World, and the second was when a friend and I were going to do Bike Party and the whole system was down. Just like a bus system that doesn’t work all the time, a bike share that isn’t reliable means that you need an alternative that is reliable. And that means that Bike Share is not an equal part of our transportation system.
The real problem is that Bike Share’s communication has been comically bad. There was not a single notification on Bike Share’s website, Twitter or Facebook on the evening of Bike Party when the system was down (and the phone number just went to hold music for over 10 minutes). I have reached out to them over Facebook or email a few times since then, and the excuses have ranged from communication issues with the stations, to the lack of bikes being a ‘rebalancing’ issues.
A ‘rebalancing issue’ indicates that there are a glut of bikes at a handful of stations. So on Labor Day morning, I decided to go out and see exactly how many bikes there were in the city.
Spoiler: it was four. Four bikes in the whole city. If you want a bike share bike in Baltimore, you have a 22/25 chance of finding a dock with no bikes (unless all of those bikes end up at the same dock!). If you have a group of five people who want to go somewhere, you can travel the 20 miles I traveled to search every bike dock and not find enough bikes for your group. I don’t know how many ways I can put it: there are four bikes. Four.
Oh… I know. One of those bikes could not be checked out from the app because it was in maintenance. I didn’t bring my fob, so maybe that one was usable. But maybe there are actually only three usable bikes in the city.
So Lets Go Through The Stations
I went around all 25 stations. A couple notes:
- I did this at 9:30 am on Labor Day. It took about two hours to get around to all of the stations, so its possible that some bikes were checked out and in use during my spot check.
- The system reported 45 bikes in the dock at this time
Reports 15 docks 1 bike. But you will notice from the photo that there are only 13 docks (including the used one)! I used the app to check this bike out and it successfully checked out, but I didn’t verify that it worked.
Docks: 15 reported; 13 present
Bikes: 1 reported; 1 present (0 electric)
Payment kiosk was operational
Baltimore and Monument (Hopkins)
This one is more accurate, as it has 11 open docks, and one (non electric) bike. Bike checked out successfully using the app, but I didn’t verify that it was operational.
Bikes: 1 (0 electric)
Shot Tower Metro
It says there is a bike here, but there were none to be found.
Cathedral & Eager
Reported 3 bikes, but there were none to be found.
Mount Vernon Marketplace
You will start to notice a trend. Reported 2 bikes, but there were none to be found.
Reports two bikes, but there was only one. It successfully checked out using the app, but I did not make sure it was operational. However, the kiosk was out of order. I am not sure if its related, but it was reported as down back in April. Not sure if its the same breakage.
Another bike reported that was not there. And another kiosk that was not operational.
One of the more egregious differences (but not the worst) as it reports five bikes that are not there. But at least the kiosk works!
One reported. None there. Sigh.
I guess I got sloppy. At least this one properly reports the number of bikes at zero.
One reported. None there. But the wall behind the empty dock is nice!
Originally was going to be the target of a Baltimore Around the World entry using Bike Share. But maybe that will wait. Zero reported. Zero available.
But… twelve docks reported… and thirteen are there??? Maybe someone stole one from Patterson Park and moved it here?
This one is completely correct.
University of Maryland
An MTA bus ran into this one. A post on Bike Share’s Facebook page that has been removed showed a bike on the sidewalk. So we might have lost a bike at this location!
Pratt and Howard
I am running out of ways to say this. No bikes.
Accurate. Oh… except it has 13 docks instead of the reported 12. I guess we found the other missing one from Patterson Park.
Off by one error.
Baltimore Visitor Center
The good news is that the kiosk works. The bad news is that this is the most egregious discrepancy. There were not seven bikes here. I did not check in the harbor though.
Pratt and Light
At this point, I am trying to remember what bikes look like. I am questioning if bikes are a thing.
The sign tells me I can do it, but it doesn’t tell me how. The kiosk does work. I try to check out a bike using the kiosk thinking that maybe I am using Bike Share completely wrong.
I stop a passing pedestrian to ask if they see any bikes. They look at me with a concerned look and keep walking. I am not sure if this means that everyone else can see the bikes except for me.
Also, there are 23 reported docks here. There are only 21. The picture below cuts off, but I looked at my original. There are only 21. I ran after the pedestrian again to see if they only saw 21 docks but they started running away.
The kiosk worked though.
A BIKE! I HAVE FOUND A BIKE! At this point, I am so excited after passing 16 stations without a single bike that I decide to take it for a spin. But, and I can’t make this up, it was not able to be checked out. It was in maintenance. Now I am sure that I am hallucinating. Or maybe this is all one big joke.
Fells Points at Bond St
Day 51: Back to no bikes
Canton at the Can Company
I gave up on pictures. I couldn’t handle one more picture of an empty dock.
The Bottom Line
Total docks: 348 (this is the actual number, and not the number reported in the app, as Patterson, Union Square, Harbor East and Camden Yards reported inaccurate numbers.
Total reported bikes (in app): 45
Actual Bikes: 4 (one was not able to be checked out from the app)
Electric Bikes: 0
Kiosks out of service: 2
Confidence that reality is real: shaky
Miles ridden to go to all stations: 20.5 miles
Bikes in the harbor: Unsure
Maybe things will get better.
I really hope things get better, but the bad communication and bad numbers reporting is really just inexcusable.