Fewer UH Bikes Available As Operator Awaits New Batteries

A non-functioning UH Bike in a rack near Heinen's in downtown Cleveland. It did not appear on the app as available to ride.
A non-functioning UH Bike in a rack near Heinen's in downtown Cleveland. It did not appear on the app as available to ride. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Cuyahoga County’s UH Bikes fleet, once 250 bicycles strong, has dwindled to a few dozen as the bikeshare system’s operator works to replace aging batteries.

There were fewer than 45 UH Bikes available Monday afternoon, according to the mobile app that allows users to find and book bikes. Several racks across the city are empty, and a number of bikes appear to be inoperable.

CycleHop, which runs the bikeshare system, is awaiting a shipment of battery upgrades this week that will put more bikes into circulation, county Sustainability Director Mike Foley said.

Each bike contains an internal computer connected to a wireless network that allows the company to track rides and bill riders. The bikes need stronger batteries because the 2G network drains their power quickly, Foley said.

“That’s the short term fix,” he said. “The long term fix is that — at least for the bikeshare system — is that new control systems are going to have to come in for those bikes, and CycleHop is talking about bringing in new bikes altogether.”

The new bikes are expected next spring. Although CycleHop operates the system, a different company, Social Bicycles, provides the underlying technology and booking app. The next wave of bikes will run on HOPR, a proprietary CycleHop platform.

“The technology was originally provided by Social Bicycles, who recently decided to discontinue this older product version,” HOPR National Operations Manager Josh Holzman told ideastream via email. “We are doing our best to support the old technology and are working on a temporary fix to the problem, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused customers.”

The county launched the UH Bikes system in 2016. CycleHop’s contract with the county runs through 2021.

UH Bikes soon won’t be the only option for shared wheels rolling down Cleveland streets.

Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration announced Monday afternoon that four companies remained in the running to operate dockless scooter and bikshare systems in Cleveland: Bird, Lime, Spin and VeoRide.

Cleveland plans a six-month demonstration period for the new systems. Unlike UH Bikes, dockless bikes and scooters don’t need to be returned to stations. Cleveland City Council passed new regulations for the systems in June after an August 2018 debacle in which Bird dropped 100 scooters on Cleveland streets without warning or regulation only to remove them two weeks later at the demand of city officials.

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