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Richmond to relaunch bike share program

Bikes are seen docked in front of the Broad Rock Branch Public Library
Ian M. Stewart
VPM News
Richmond's rental e-bikes have been locked at RVA Bike Share stations, like this one near Broad Rock Branch Public Library, since May.

Representatives of a company called We Go Share say they signed a contract with the city on July 31 to help restart RVA Bike Share.

E-bikes have sat locked at stations for the RVA Bike Share program since May, but a new agreement between the city and a Portuguese software company means the program's wheels might soon be turning again.

On May 22, Richmond city officials said in a statement they were given two days' notice that Bewegen Technologies was ceasing operations. The Canadian company handled the bike share system’s tech until it declared bankruptcy.

The company’s closure forced the city to shutter its bike share program, which included closing the mobile app and removing the program’s website. Since then, city officials have been silent on when the program will relaunch, even after multiple requests from VPM News to comment on the bike share's status.

Other cities that used Bewegen as their bike-share software provider — like Raleigh, North Carolina — first learned of the technology company’s financial troubles as early as March, according to nonprofit news agency Greater Greater Washington.

Richmond first got news of Bewegen Technologies’ possible bankruptcy the week of April 17, according to emails VPM News obtained through a public records request.

In an April 26 email, Martjin Kentie, Bewegen’s director of international development, wrote to Richmond’s Department of Public Works: "Last week, you saw the news about Bewegen Technologies being bankrupt. I believe you spoke with our CFO, Daniel Maheux, who told you that this was fake news. Would you have time this Friday or sometime next week for a quick call in order for me to give you some more details on the situation?"

After that exchange, Richmond officials spoke with Bewegen employees over several emails and video meetings to glean more information. But the company shut down on May 19 after giving the city a day’s notice. Officials told the public on May 22.

Portuguese company wins bid

Starting in June, Richmond city officials began soliciting other software companies to take over for Bewegen. A company called We Go Share will help relaunch RVA Bike Share’s software for $55,000, according to documents.

In an email to VPM News, the Portuguese company said it signed a one-year contract with the city on July 31. But it did not specify when the program would be back up and running — nor have city officials.

Raleigh’s Cardinal Bikeshare program relaunched in early June, offering riders 60 days of free rides.

In their original statement, Richmond city officials promised to welcome users back with free rides for 30 days.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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