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Hundreds of e-bikes abandoned in Richmond after company quietly shutters operations

Richmond’s first ever bike-sharing program has apparently bolted, leaving hundreds of neon cyan bicycles abandoned and effectively useless around town.

Bolt Mobility rolled out 250 app-powered e-bikes across the city in June 2021, funded by a $1 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

But starting this July, Richmond joined several other cities and counties across the country in reporting that they were getting radio silence from the company — a Florida-based “micromobility” startup cofounded in 2018 by Olympic gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt and Shervin Pishevar, a San Francisco-based venture capitalist who has also invested in companies such as Airbnb and Uber.

Bolt’s “dockless” technology requires would-be riders to download the company’s smartphone app to locate, unlock, activate and pay for the e-bikes. However, no bikes appear on Bolt’s map of Richmond, which means they may have been removed from the system or have dead batteries. Whatever the reason, the bikes are not currently operational.

According to Mayor Tom Butt, Richmond officials are trying to figure out a plan to remove the equipment that’s still scattered around town, from the Richmond Marina, Keller Beach and the Point Richmond Community Center, to the city’s Civic Center, Ferry Terminal and BART station.

“Unfortunately, Bolt apparently went out of business without prior notification or removal of their capital equipment from city property,” Butt wrote in an e-Forum post July 23. “They recently missed the city’s monthly meeting check-in and have been unresponsive to all their clients throughout all their markets.”

Courtesy of the city of Richmond 

Calls to Richmond City Hall were not returned, but public documents show the bike-sharing program was proposed to help spread the health benefits of physical activity and reduce low-income household spending on transportation, especially since Richmond has completed more than 36 miles of its San Francisco Bay Trail — more than any other city around the bay.

Locally, Bolt also launched 300 e-bikes at stations along the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit line — also funded by a $826,000 grant from the MTC — as well as a fleet in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley.

Bolt has purportedly operated in more than a dozen other states, including New York, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia, and some locations have reported that their e-bike programs are operating without any issues.

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