Earlier this month, Baltimore Bike Share temporarily shut down, following a wave of theft and vandalism over the summer that left the system, not even a year old, barely able to function.
The shutdown will last until mid-October, when the program is slated to relaunch with stronger locks and a fleet of newly repaired bikes. In the meantime, officials are reckoning with how they got in this position in the first place.
“The people of Baltimore noticed the problem basically when school let out,” said Chris King, a marketing adviser for Bewegen, the Canadian company that built the system and nine others like it across North America and Europe.
Baltimore police told reporters that the culprits were largely teenagers, a fact that complicates the issue.
Like most cities, Baltimore does not allow minors to use bike share for liability reasons. But telling kids not to ride can be a tough ask, particularly here. The city has a robust youth cycling culture, with dirt bike groups like the 12 O’Clock Boys popular among local teens.
“What it really comes down to is that these kids want to ride bicycles,” King said.
The docking stations were designed to resist up to 600 pounds of pressure, according Bewegan. That didn’t stop thieves from wiggling the bikes loose and taking them on short, but destructive, joy rides.