Updated: RVA BikeShare 2.0 exists, but does not work
This was supposed to be about using the bikeshare. Tl;dr: You probably can’t (yet)?
We have updated the text accordingly.
For months, bikes have been locked up and docked at stations, unable to be used as the city of Richmond switched operators for its bike-sharing program. Former operator Bewegen Technologies, a Canadian outfit, unexpectedly declared bankruptcy in May.
After months of silence, RVA BikeShare formally relaunched this week under a new partnership between the city of Richmond; Wegoshare, a Portugal-based firm that previously partnered with Bewegen on bikeshares; and Evolve Mobility. But the relaunch, still in its early days, has had several technical difficulties.
This was supposed to be an article about how to use the service, but instead this is about how the service isn’t working as intended multiple days after launch.
The Richmond Department of Public Works released a surprise announcement late last week announcing the rekindled service would be online as of Monday, as previously reported. That press release included directives pointing bikeshare users to the RVA BikeShare app on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
Those apps were unavailable Friday but have since launched. (A third listed option, using the city’s 3-1-1 app to rent bikes, remains un-implemented as of press time.)
Once the app is downloaded, users are met with a screen that asks for a cellphone number so a six-digit verification code can be sent. From there, things only seem to go downhill.
To start a ride, users need to purchase a membership. On Tuesday, it did not appear that memberships were available for purchase, and there were no promo codes to get the rides that Richmond Public Works announced would be free through Dec. 31.
On Wednesday, RVA BikeShare users were met with a new screen that showed the “2023 Year End Offer” that would allow access to free two-hour rides. If a user tries to add that membership to their profile, a notice pops up: “The system is closed for the evening/night. During closing hours, it isn’t possible to subscribe/renew any short-term memberships.”
A $35 pre-authorization hold may be placed on a user’s credit card account for the duration of an occasional membership.
If users try to put in a credit card, they’re met with yet another error: “Your credit card appears to be invalid.” Multiple members of the VPM News team tried putting in their credit card information and met with the same error.
VPM News attempted to reach several city officials and listed points of contact on Wednesday for all of our questions about RVA BikeShare’s relaunch. None were successful.
After this article was published, Wegoshare CEO Daniel Ferreira contacted VPM News to provide several clarifying pieces of information about the company's role in bikeshares formerly operated by Bewegen Technologies.
"Wegoshare is an IT company and we are solely the provider of the robust IT infrastructure that powers the RVA BikeShare system. Wegoshare is not the operator of the RVA BikeShare," Ferreira wrote via email. "We had a similar partnership with Bewegen, where we played the same technological role."
Emails sent to [email protected], the listed address on the bikeshare’s website for “any difficulties or need additional information,” went undelivered — because the email address does not exist.
Phone calls made to representatives for Richmond City, DPW and RVA BikeShare also went unanswered. In one instance, a DPW employee’s voicemail couldn’t be reached because it was full.
VPM News also called the number listed on the RVA BikeShare website: 1-877-460-2435. That led to a phone tree VPM News believed was operated by Wegoshare, which has provided technical support and development for Bewegen-operated bikeshare initiatives: “Thank you for calling the bikeshare program. Please listen closely to select your current city. For Summit County, Utah, press five.”
There are no other cities listed on the automated tree.
Ferreira told VPM News that "Wegoshare does not operate any bikeshare systems in the United States. Our exclusive role is to provide the technological backbone for several bike-sharing initiatives in the United States."
The 1-877 number is listed on the archived and active bikeshare information pages for several former Bewegen outfits, including RVA BikeShare, Cardinal BikeShare in North Carolina and BlueBikeSC in South Carolina.
VPM News has requested additional information from Ferreira on Wegoshare's role in the phone tree, website and the RVA BikeShare app implementation.
Some users have taken to social media to air grievances about the service, citing flat tires, lack of customer support and a hard-to-use app.
VPM News reporter Ian Stewart went to the Canal Walk dock to try and rent a bike. He noted the bikes “seem to be in OK working order,” but that some of the tires were low on air — and he wasn’t able to rent one.
VPM News reporter Ian Stewart contributed to this story.