CaBi key with circuit extracted. Photo by the author.

Can you fix a bikeshare key that suddenly won’t fit into the slot? You can, but as I found, the repair is only temporary. If you use this trick, be sure to also call Capital Bikeshare and get a replacement key.

The problem came up on the day CaBi opened in Montgomery County. I was eager to use the new docks, and I had an errand that bikeshare could save 15 minutes on compared to walking. On my way home from work, I got off the Metro in Bethesda and walked to the dock. But my key wouldn’t go in the slot.

I called Capital Bikeshare and a representative helpfully explained that old keys tend to get thicker and stop fitting in the slot. They promised to send another in a week or 10 days. They also offered a refund if I used a credit card; I declined, thinking it would be less trouble to walk to my destination.

From the beginning, I was puzzled. Plastic does age, but it gets stiff rather than expanding. After a few days, I looked more closely at my key. It was made of two layers of plastic that had begun to separate at the end with the arrowhead. When I began to pull them apart, a plastic sheet with an electronic circuit fell out.

One layer of red plastic had a slot for the circuit. I put the circuit into the slot, making sure to correctly position the raised circular dimple that’s on the back of the square circuit in one corner. Once I got the circuit into the right place, presto: with the key squeezed between thumb and finger, it went into the slot. And I was off on bikeshare again.