Bike Chattanooga, the new bike share system, is one more way that Chattanooga is on the cutting edge, Jeremy Pomp, general manager for the organization, told members of the downtown Kiwanis Club on Tuesday.
He said the program aims to contribute to health and the environment as well as being an alternative mode of transportation.
Chattanooga is in good company and ahead of New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Vancouver, which will all start bike share programs in 2013, the speaker said.
Cities that already have one in place include London, Washington, D.C., Montreal, Boston, Minneapolis and Toronto.
The program in Chattanooga was funded by a $2 million federal air quality grant. Use of the bikes will offset carbon emissions from gas-powered vehicles. It is a public/private partnership between the city that owns the bikes and operates as a contractor for Alta Bike Share. It is managed by Outdoor Chattanooga. The ultimate goal is for the program to be self-sustaining from the revenue that it generates.
Currently there have been 400 annual memberships bought for $75 apiece. It can also be used without the membership with a 24-hour access for $6. With either option, there is no additional charge for a 60-minute ride, but each extra 30 minutes is $5. A bike can be turned in and another checked out, unlimited times, for 60 minutes or less rides at no extra charge.
Mr. Pomp said bike shares are meant for not only a point to point public transit system designed for short trips around Chattanooga, but also for recreation. Creating a fun, livable and vibrant downtown experience and the improvement of air quality are some of the goals. It is hoped that this will enhance the city’s brand as a leader in outdoor activity. “We appreciate the environment here and Bike Chattanooga contributes to this” he said.
Currently there are 300 bikes at 30 stations scattered in a dense network about two blocks apart. Location of the stations range from the Northshore, throughout downtown, the waterfront and UTC to the Southside. Plans to extend this network are being made.
The bicycles are designed specifically for this purpose. The frames have no center bar for ease of use. There are chain guards to protect against grease, LED lights on both front and back, and fully adjustable seats that can accommodate anyone ranging from four and a half feet to over seven feet tall. They are equipped with a bolt to attach the frame to the bike dock as well as a traditional lock on a cable for securing in between stations. There is also a rack to carry items up to 40 pounds, and, because of the hilly terrain, all bikes have seven speeds. In Tennessee it is not required for anyone 16 years or older to wear a helmet, said Mr. Pomp, but you can bring your own, or receive a 15 percent discount from local bike shops for buying one to use on the bike shares.
A GPS chip is embedded in each bike which tracks and records the location and routes that have been taken. This feature provides the time and mileage of a trip and calculates the calories and fat burned. The city has had no theft or damage to any bike, partially because the chips know where the bike is. Other deterrents are a $101 deposit charged to the credit card that is used for rentals and $1,000 charge if the bike is not returned.
Bike Share Chattanooga was launched July 23, 2012. In the first 120 days that bike share has been in operation, it has been used for 10,000 trips adding up to 10,000 miles. The average distance for each ride was around one mile. There have been 7,500 pounds of carbon dioxide offset. There have been 3,000 casual riders using the bikes for 24-hour periods. It has been calculated this activity equals 340 pounds of fat burned.
Current sponsors are One North Shore, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga History Center and Gaining Ground. The organization hopes to get more corporate sponsorships in the coming year. A station can be underwritten for $10,000 a year, which provides advertising space at the sponsored bike docking station.