This article appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
On a trip through Smyrna, one might find a jovial group of residents riding identical bicycles and enjoying the city’s new bike share program. Programs similar to Smyrna’s, which use Zagster bikes and other bike-share services, have been popping up across the state. And, proponents of these programs credit this recreation trend for being a “win” for communities by promoting valuable environmental practices, providing an alternative to automobile transportation and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
Across the country, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that there were more than 2,600 bike-share stations in 65 cities as of early 2016.
“Our program was initiated to promote active, healthy lifestyles but also as a means of beginning to connect activity centers in Alpharetta in a manner that provided an alternative to driving,” said Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle. “Over the first six months of our program’s operation 1,952 active members joined the program, and we saw 4,624 total trips taken using the program—an average of 183 trips per week.”
Alpharetta initiated its program last May with a total of 12 cruiser bikes available between three locations. A fourth location was added through business support. Riders enroll for annual or daily passes; the first three hours are free. Additional hours are $3 for daily passes and $2 for annual pass holders.
Known for its proximity to the Silver Comet Trail, creating a bike share program was natural for the city of Smyrna.
“During the past decade, Smyrna made major investments in improving our multipurpose trail infrastructure,” said Teri Anulewicz, who represents Ward 3 in the Jonquil City. “We added miles of trails and had a solid network of trails that not only connected residents and visitors to several parks, but also connected to the Silver Comet Trail that begins in Smyrna and runs west into Alabama. Adding a bike share program made it easy for residents and visitors to take advantage of this amenity.”
Smyrna’s program offers the first four hours of a ride at no cost. After the first four hours, there is a $5 an hour charge—up to $40 per ride. Riders join online and can download an app that allows for reservations and rentals.
“One benefit that we didn’t anticipate is how the bike share has truly become an alternative form of transit for residents who either don’t have access to a car, or who prefer to not use their car for short errands around our city,” Anulewicz said. “The bike share program is especially popular during the warmer months. Smyrna hosts Food Truck Tuesdays in Taylor-Brawner Park each Tuesday evening between May and September, and many foodies love to ride a Zagster cruiser bike to the park.”
Both Alpharetta and Smyrna use Zagster bikes, stations and borrowing/riding system.
Savannah turned to its mass transit provider, Chatham Area Transit, to implement the city’s automated CAT Bike Program in January 2014.
“The CAT Bike is a magic bike: there when you need it and gone when you don’t. No more hassles with maintaining, fixing or storing your getting-around-town bike. Let CAT Bike take care of all that,” said Savannah Alderman Bill Durrence. “About 40 percent of all trips made in America each day are fewer than two miles long. That’s the perfect length for a bicycle trip. CAT Bikes allows people to economically and conveniently avoid road congestion and parking problems, and reduce pollution. That’s not all: biking also improves your health and puts a smile on your face.”