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Bike share program kicks off in Charm City

After several failed attempts and $2.36 million dollars later, the Baltimore Bikeshare program has finally been launched in the city. The program made its debut last Friday, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake and other city officials participated in a pedaling parade from City Hall to the Inner Harbor, where some of the very first bike-share stations are located.

Baltimore Bikeshare has approximately 200 GPS-outfitted bikes and 20 stations as of now. By spring, the program is expected to add 300 bikes to its fleet, as well as 30 additional stations around the city.

Besides sporting GPS and odometer features, some of the bikes are also outfitted with pedal-assist technology or “pedelec.” Marked by a lightning bolt decal, the pedelec bikes engage an automatic electric pedaling system, which may come in handy in Baltimore’s more difficult terrains.

In a statement to The Baltimore Sun, Liz Cornish, executive director at Bikemore, a biking advocacy group, said Baltimore has the largest pedal-assist fleet in the western hemisphere. For traditionalists, the fleet also features eight-gear bikes.

The partnership between the City of Baltimore and Canadian company Bewegen Technologies aims to provide a new alternative for exploring the city, made for residents and visitors alike. Users can download the Baltimore Bikeshare app, go to their website, or simply walk up to the bike stations to start riding. Rides start at $2 per 45 minutes with additional fares for overtime.

The program seems popular with residents and visitors alike. Andrea Velazquez, a frequent visitor to the city from Rockville, took the opportunity to try out a biking trip through the Inner Harbor.

“I come to Baltimore to visit my friends a lot, and I’ve always wanted to organize a bike trip with all of us. It’s always kind of a pain, I can’t bring my bike all the way from my house, and a couple of them don’t even own bicycles, but now, maybe we can finally do it,”said Valasquez, as she checked out a bike for a single trip at the Baltimore Visitor Center bike station.

Since the launch of Baltimore Bikeshare, the program’s website has already recorded over 1,600 individual trips, and over 2,300 miles traveled overall. Users can unlock bikes personally or via the app at any station, check them out and return them at any other Bikeshare station in the city.

The website also offers membership alternatives. Besides paying for single trips, users can also purchase $15 monthly passes, which include unlimited 45 minute rides. A Go-Pass saves time used registering at the kiosk for a one-time pass for the same price. Alternatively, Founding Members pay a $100 annual fee (for life) and get a few perks, such as unlimited 60 minute rides, a Founding Member water bottle, and a free Zipcar membership, complete with driving credit.

With the website and the app, users can search for stations and register on the go. Besides showing current stations, the Baltimore Bikeshare website also indicates which stations are still on their planning stages, and which are the most popular stations for check-outs and returns. As of now, most of the riding activity is concentrated around Cross Street Market, the National Aquarium, and the Baltimore Visitor Center.