By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Amidst scores of complaints from users, Rio de Janeiro’s public bicycle rental system, Bike Rio, is under new service management as São Paulo company, Tembici, takes over operations of the embattled social transportation program.
Tembici inherits the contract as part of its purchase of former Bike Rio manager, Samba Transportes Sustentáveis. With the acquisition, Tembici will now take over Samba Transportes Sustentáveis’ Bike Rio service contract with Rio de Janeiro City Hall, which lasts until 2018.
As the new service manager of Bike Rio, Tembici has a tough road ahead. After the initial honeymoon period following the system’s launch in 2011, where the bright orange bikes were seen as a much cheaper and convenient alternative to the Metro or the traffic-laden Rio streets, Bike Rio has been plagued with problems.
These include numerous complaints from users over unexpected and erroneous credit card charges, difficulty of renting and withdrawing bikes from the Bike Rio mobile app, lack of bicycle availability and bicycles that are broken or damaged.
“It’s very rare that I find a bike at this station,” Ipanema resident Mariana Resende told The Rio Times referring to station 107, at Rua Alberto de Campos and Rua Vinicius de Moraes in Ipanema. “And normally when I do, it often has a flat tire or broken chain.”
In a statement on Monday, May 22nd, Bike Rio said the biggest problem they face is vandalism. According to the company, 62 percent of the calls to the call center relate with damage to the bicycles. The company did not comment on problems regarding the operability of the Bike Rio app.
Bike Rio sponsor, Itaú Bank, also released a statement on Monday indicating the change in Bike Rio’s service management, from Samba Transportes Sustentáveis to Tembici, will have no effect on their sponsorship of the program.
Bike Rio was a joint sustainability initiative started in 2011 between Rio City Hall and Itaú Bank. The orange Bike Rio bikes can be rented for the day for R$5, or the month for R$10, by anyone with a credit card and a cell phone through the Bike Rio mobile app.