Bike share programs are gaining speed all over the country, and metro Atlanta communities are hopping on the trend too. Smyrna and Kennesaw adopted bike share programs last year and Atlanta plans to debut its bike share later this year. The goals and mission of bike shares are to promote community, transit options, recreation and sustainability.
By Camille Moore
It’s 10:30 a.m. on a warm and sunny Friday, and cars are stopped at the red light on the corner of Barrett Lakes Boulevard and Cobb Place Boulevard in Kennesaw, Georgia. It appears to be a typical day to the average driver and passenger waiting at the light, but to a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk, one will notice something is missing from the rack— bikes.
Not because bikes are stolen or lost, but because people are utilizing the new bike share program gaining momentum in Kennesaw.
According to Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC), a group conducted a feasibility study in 2013 and found that in 2012, there were 23 bike shares across the United States. Metro Atlanta has jumped on the growing trend adopting bike shares in Smyrna and in Kennesaw in 2015, and one to be launched later this year in Atlanta.
Bike share program debut
Smyrna was the first metro Atlanta city to have a bike share program when it launched in fall 2015 after Council Rep.Teri Anulewicz tried out the bike share in Austin, Texas, in 2014.
“I used the Austin bike tour city program to really understand the bike share and its infrastructure,” Anulewicz said. “I realized in Smyrna we invested a lot in bike infrastructure and we are continuously adding to it.”
When sparked with the idea, she began researching and read an article in New York Times that New York City started a bike share program and uses Zagster as the vendor for its program. After further research, she said she knew Zagster was the best option for the size of Smyrna.
“We don’t need 100 bikes like the city of Atlanta or Boston,” Anulewicz said. “And Zagster has scalability and they do smaller cities, college campuses with 16 or 20 bikes; that’s what Smyrna needed.”
Smyrna has 12 bikes at three different locations: Smyrna Public Library, Taylor-Brawner Park and one near Jonquil Road. With the weather getting warmer, she said she notices more people enjoying and using the bikes.
Bryce Hughey, 26, said he enjoyed himself when he tried the program.
“I had a good time riding the bikes,” he said. “There are seven gears so I can go any speed I want, the height adjustment is nice and I like that there is an air pump at the station in case of a flat. The only thing Zagster should change is being able to switch and ride at any Zagster station.”
After registering and becoming a bike share member at one’s desired location, the Zagster app does not allow participants to switch between different bike shares because membership is to one location.
Bike share cycles to Kennesaw
A month after Smyrna launched its bike share, Kennesaw’s Community Improvement District launched its program in November 2015 after a year of looking at options. CIDs have two primary goals: infrastructure and quality of life. Tracy Rathbone, executive director of Town Center CID, said bike share accomplishes a number of goals: recreation and community assets for bikes and fun and transit options for students and for people who don’t want to deal with the premium of parking.
“Especially on Kennesaw State University Campus,” she said. “This is another way we will eventually use it as a transit option in addition to the recreational option.”
Like Smryna, Kennesaw’s CID chose Zagster as its vendor because CIDs don’t typically own and maintain something, said Rathbone. CIDs are there for the fruition and maintain for the completion. Zagster, as the vendor, is responsible for all bikes.
“I also talked with Anulewicz,” said Rathbone. “And she was a couple of steps ahead of us with the procurement and questions and did a lot of research for us.”
Instead of doing a feasibility study to determine where the needs were for the bikes, like the city of Atlanta, Rathbone said. Kennesaw’s CID knew how many people were on the trail thanks to its counters.
“We knew we were averaging 8,200 visitors a month on the Noonday Creek Trail,” she said.
The counters on the trail count the pedestrian and bike numbers and averages it out. The counters track which part of the trails get the most visitors, therefore Kennesaw’s CID knew which three parts of the trails receives the most usage for the pilot program. Kennesaw’s CID started with three stations: one at Bells Ferry trailhead, one at Town Center Mall and one at the corner of Barrett Lakes Boulevard and Cobb Place Boulevard.
“We see it [bike share] as a mold for how to put bike share effectively on the ground at a low cost, high benefit way,” said Rathbone.
Next stop, Atlanta
“There are a variety of reasons why Atlanta decided to adopt a bike share program,” said Becky Katz, Atlanta’s first chief bicycle officer. “It [bike] adds to the ecosystem and the constituents have a variety of options for transportation, it offers a standard competitiveness and amenities other cities offer for residents that Atlanta is bike friendly and it transforms the way people get around— engaging the public to have easy accessibility to bikes.”
Mayor Kasim Reed announced March 3, 2015 that after years of planning, analysis and negotiations Atlanta would adopt its own bike share program toward the end of 2015; signing a five-year deal with Miami-based CycleHop LLC. However, finding the right people to manage the program took longer than anticipated causing a delay to launch the program. The city hired Tim Keane as the permanent planning commission after a nine-month search and Becky Katz as the chief bicycle officer after a five-month search.
Katz said another reason for the delay was because the operator, CycleHop, had to find a large sponsor.
Now that the all the gears are in line and Atlanta now has a total of 84 miles of bike infrastructure, which is equivalent to about 5 percent of all roads in the city, and residents voted for the city to construct a series of new bike projects funded by the $250 million infrastructure bond package, the bike share is planned to launch later this year.
“There will be a pilot this summer with CycleHop that will have 10 potential stations as a test,” said Katz. “And later there will be a debut of all 500 bikes varied at 50 stations.”
The bikes will be located across several Atlanta neighborhoods: Buckhead, Downtown, Midtown, West End and neighborhoods along the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail.
“The program is biking and walking community focused way of moving around the city, said Katz on her favorite thing about the program and bike riding. “It’s about going at a slower speed; to understand context and a great way to view the community.”
Cycling to stay green
Though there are three different bike shares across metro Atlanta, all three programs share similar missions and values when promoting the program and environment is one of them.
A survey conducted by Nice Ride Minneapolis and Capital Bike Share in the District of Columbia, estimated 7- 20 percent total bike share trips replaced single occupant cars reducing dependency on cars.
“With 70 percent of people’s trips less than three miles, people can bicycle those three miles instead of driving,” said Katz. “We want people to bicycle as an alternative from of transportation when driving three miles.”
Bikes also emit less greenhouse gases than cars and a Montreal bike system claimed to have decreased 3 million pounds of gases roughly in its first year, according to the ABC feasibility study. This number could increase more with additional bike share programs.
A sense of community is present with the bike shares in Kennesaw and Smyrna. Rathbone said the program is a way for the CID to show the broader community everything we do.
“We are more than just roads or bridges,” she said. “Zagster is a way to show the community the improvement to the quality of life and creating that sense of place at Town Center.
The 20 bikes are divided among the three stations and as of last week, there were more than 3,500 trips and 1,600 riders who signed up for membership.
“The numbers are outstanding,” said Rathbone.
Samuel Cleare, 25, said his favorite part about the Noonday Trail in Kennesaw was the scenery.
“I think the program itself is pretty peachy,” he said. “I liked the scenic route when riding the trail, and I liked that the trail was longer than I expected.”
Anulewicz said that the community really enjoys the program in Smyrna and it is an outlet for people who don’t have bikes and want to ride, or people who don’t know how to ride.
“It’s just fun and plenty of people have mountain bikes or road bikes,” she said. “These are cruisers, so people who go on vacations to Hilton Head Island or Florida, where bike riding is common, are able to come home and try it here.”
She also said that she knows couples who have incorporated date night as bike night—biking from a restaurant to a bar to get a drink.
Looking to the future
Once the city of Smyrna finishes up the links to the bike system on Village Parkway and the Riverview Landing area around the Chattahoochee is complete, Smyrna plans on linking up with the Beltline to have connectivity between the Silver Comet Trail, the Beltline, the Smyrna bike system and the Cumberland CID, so bike enthusiasts could bike from Decatur to Alabama using the PATH foundation and trailing system.
Kennesaw’s CID also plan on expanding further with other CIDs and is looking into the next phase about possibly adding stations at KSU. Rathbone and Debra Mahan, director of transportation at KSU, are in talks about bringing bike shares to both Kennesaw and Marietta campuses later this year.
“There is real benefit, not just about what they want, but gives bikes a whole new name and concept to the city,” said Katz. “Bikes are for everybody, and is a wonderful way to move and change people’s minds about biking since Atlanta is autocentric.”