Friday, June 9

Thousands of public bicycles disappear with Almeida: Bicimad collapses and does not locate 82% of its vehicles

More than 3,500 bicycles from the municipal rental service are no longer located on the official Bicimad map, where users can check the occupancy level of each station, with constant updates.

According to a count of this newspaper carried out in the early hours of Sunday to this Monday, the number of devices available on the map was 732 out of the total of 4,264 bicycles that the council announced that it would have deployed throughout the month of March. The figure means that more than 82% of the total number of vehicles that make up the service were not available to its subscribers.

These figures explain the general feeling for several days that there are hardly any bicycles that work in Bicimad, especially within the central area (the neighborhoods inside the M-30), where most stations show one or no bicycle available. Despite the fact that the number of system stops is much higher in this area than in the outer districts, the devices available in these latter places are greater than in the center, according to Somos Madrid’s count.

Below we show the map of the number of bicycles in each station used for the count of this newspaper. In green, the system marks the stations where there are hardly any bikes. In blue those that have several and in red those that have the same number or more vehicles than free anchorages.

At the time of counting, only four Bicimad stations were colored red, which shows an abundance of bicycles. Before the launch of the service expansion, it was common for the outer edges to be filled with rental cycles at the end of the day and the same was the case with the stops in the center in the central hours of each day.

Why are there so few bikes available? Many people from Madrid have been warning the Madrid City Council for days that some users are abandoning vehicles far from the stops. You just have to go to the profile of the municipal bicycle service on Twitter to find dozens of examples.

What happens is that since the launch of the new Bicimad an indeterminate number of subscribers are finishing their trips without arriving at the stations. Or they do not leave the bicycles locked when they arrive at the destination, so they can be taken by other people outside the service. The registration of new subscribers, attracted by the free service until July, has led to the use of bicycles by people unfamiliar with the rear lock, the main security element implemented by the council to prevent the theft of their vehicles.

Added to the confusion of some users is the eventful debut with which the Municipal Transport Company (EMT) launched the service three weeks ago, in the midst of a general failure of its computer systems, improper charges and constant errors in the application during the First days.

Two systems at once, chaos from the first week

Some subscribers attribute the failures to the electoral rush to launch Almeida’s great cycling bet in the face of re-election. The expansion of Bicimad to 611 stations in the 21 districts of Madrid had been announced for almost a year and going to the elections without seeing it come true could be a major setback for the candidate. So the EMT decided to launch the new bicycles (blue) through a system that mixed them with the old ones (white) but made the anchoring of both between the old stations and the ones recently placed incompatible, because their hooks did not fit.

This incompatibility means that neither the white bikes can be charged at the new stations nor the blue ones at the old ones, which in the long run leads to the discharge of these devices, which work with electricity. The employees of the EMT who are in charge of their maintenance have to move the devices from one place to another to hook them in compatible places or they are forced to charge them with portable batteries. These days are overwhelmed for this reason, as is the service’s helpline.

The alert for the lack of bicycles was activated two weeks ago, when El País published that 500 had disappeared during the first days of service. It is enough to take a walk through Madrid Río any morning to verify that many are in its surroundings. Neither the town hall nor the EMT have confirmed this figure and since the problems with Bicimad began, it has remained completely silent about the devices and the number of incidents. Somos Madrid has asked its press areas on numerous occasions without having received any response so far.

“There are some incidents that we hope can be resolved over the next few weeks,” acknowledged the municipal government spokesperson, Inmaculada Sanz, last Thursday. It was the last day that a municipal official recognized the problems. During the press conference, she also asked citizens to call 010 to send the appropriate claims.

The cost: 2,410 euros per new bike

Each new vehicle has cost Madrid City Council 2,410 euros, within a global contract amounting to 48 million euros, of which 30 million are financed through European NextGeneration funds distributed by the Government of Spain.

Bicycles from Madrid have been more expensive than those bought by other cities such as Valladolid, even though the supply company -PBSC- has been the same. In the Madrid town hall they explain it because the devices that arrived in the capital have an extra built-in lock and an additional computer development to park the bicycle without anchoring it, next to a station. Exactly what is causing the problems in Madrid and not in other cities with the same bikes, as I explained well this weekend an article in El Periódico de España.

While the chaos worsens in Bicimad, the municipal officials continue to minimize the problems and describe as “normal” the incidents of a service that has less than 20% of its bicycles available. Instead of explaining the reasons for the failure in the launch or informing about the measures they are taking to try to solve it, the City Council has opted for silence in the face of questions from the press or throwing balls out when they have no choice but to answer.

It happened, for example, last Wednesday at the Mobility Commission: the area delegate, Borja Carabante, ultimately responsible for the EMT and therefore for the deployment of Bicimad, responded to a question from the PSOE about the disappearance of the bicycles. “Of course there are incidents, we are aware and we have to solve them as soon as possible,” he said before counterattacking by complaining about the problems in the Madrid suburban train, to which he dedicated most of his response.