29 September 2017

New Locks In The Town Of "The Wire"

Bike share programs have been popular in most of the cities that have them.  Share bikes provide an alternative to driving or even public transportation (which is often overcrowded or inconvenient) for many commuters, and have given people who don't have a place to keep a bicycle the option to ride.  And, of course, they're handy when a friend visits from out of town and you don't have a bike for him or her to ride.

One problem, though, is that in too many cities, those bikes have also been popular with thieves.  Roberto, my guide in Rome, told me that the Eternal City abandoned its program after bikes were stripped and abandoned, tossed into the river or simply disappeared.  Other cities that were among the early adopters of the bike share idea found that they had to redesign ports and locks and install tracking devices on their bikes.

The problem of theft and vandalism was bad enough in Baltimore that earlier this month, it temporarily shut down its program.  The locks on the bikes met industry standards, but were no match for thieves in Mobtown.  

Bewegen, the company that made the locks, believes it has come up with a solution:  a "Baltimore lock" that automatically clamps the bike into the station when its handlebars are yanked.  According to Bewegen, other unspecified safety measures are also being added to the bikes.

All of the bikes have been shipped to the company's Montreal headquarters, where they will be refurbished as the new locks are made. "It's going to be a hard overhaul," says Chris King, the company's US marketing adviser.  "We're stripping them down to the bone."  He said the company will pay for the cost of the locks and all of the work under the terms of its warranty with the city.

Once the work is done, company officials will go to Baltimore to oversee the installation of the new bike locks.  King has all but admitted that the 15 October target date might not be met.  "We'll take as long as it's going to take to make it right," he said.

And, hopefully, folks in a town known for Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken and The Wire will be able to enjoy their city on two wheels for many years to come.