Tartu's urban smart bike service has been temporarily suspended as the Canadian company, which owns the software used to run the bike-sharing system, is on the verge of bankruptcy. The City of Tartu hopes to resume the service in two weeks.
Tartu Smart Bike Share has nearly 6,000 active users. However, this Wednesday, minutes before the end of the working day, the city administration announced that the bikes could no longer be used.
"As our system supplier has been facing payment difficulties, we have now reached the point where there is no technical support for the service. So, (parts of) the system began to crash like a set of dominoes," explained Roman Meeksa, head of Tartu city transport.
Due to the system failure, the city is also unable to identify the exact location of all its smart bikes. However, it is still possible for users to return them to docking stations.
"Our plan for today is to gather all the bikes from the city, just to get a clear overview and also to do some maintenance," said Meeksa.
In addition to the software, cash-strapped Canadian company Bewegen had also been responsible for providing the bike share system's hardware. Currently there are around two seasons' worth of spare parts left in Tartu. What will happen after those supplies run out however, remains uncertain.
"Fortunately, we know that Bewegen was not the manufacturer of the bikes, so there is another company that can produce them and can also supply the related spare parts. If we manage to reach an agreement there as well, then the hardware supplies can continue," said Tartu Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm (Reform).
However, when it comes to the software developed by Bewegen used to ensure the city's network of 800 smart bikes and 100 docking stations keeps running smoothly, no immediate replacement is currently available.
Tartu City Government did say that a suitable solution has been identified, which will cost an additional €100,000 a year for the city going forward.
"As we currently have a valid contract with Bewegen, we need to settle the termination of that contract legally first, then we can talk about alternatives," said Tamm.
Meeksa said, that that the bike-sharing system in Tartu will definitely continue once the issue has been resolved.
The city is also working on ways to compensate users for money spent on the interrupted service.
Editor: Michael Cole