Bike transportation will soon become as convenient as bus service throughout downtown Chattanooga and along North Shore thanks to the Bike Chattanooga initiative.
"Chattanooga implementing a public bicycle share program is very exciting on many levels," said Stefanie de Olloqui, associate director for research and community engagement at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "It has implications for addressing community-wide concerns that we all face. Issues such as parking, air/water quality and the need for increased physical activity to prevent the onset of chronic conditions are hallmark worries of mid-sized cities."
Bike Chattanooga will launch with 300 seven-speed bicycles built for residents 16 years or older. Thirty bicycle stations with 15 to 20 bicycle docks each will be placed around Chattanooga, providing access to the convenient transportation method in high-use areas.
Outdoor Chattanooga is currently looking for businesses to volunteer space for kiosks as well as those interested in sponsoring kiosks or bicycles.
"We're very close to finalizing our contract with our selected vendor, Alta Bicycle Share, and things will move very rapidly into a launch phase once that is finalized," said Philip Pugliese, who as project manager for Bike Chattanooga hopes to have the system up and running in two to four months. "The system will be fairly compact, initially."
The first kiosks will be located between Main Street and the North Shore and downtown and UTC's main campus. Pugliese said he foresees users as residents and workers, or tourists making connections between their hotels and downtown attractions.
"[The program] is really not designed for bicycles to be checked out and used for three hours," he said. "The public bike share system enables users to utilize bicycles for short trips from point A to point B at very low costs."
However, Pugliese said he hopes the program will grow popular enough that additional kiosks along the Tennessee Riverwalk and local greenways can be added, allowing better access by bicycle to outer communities. The initial phase is being funded by a $2 million grant provided by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program for Outdoor Chattanooga, who is partnering with CARTA.
"It's going to be an eye opener for people who live here," said Ruth Thompson of Outdoor Chattanooga. "It's going to open up a whole new world for them, and it's going to raise our cachet in the tourism industry, because if you go to a lot of the major tourist destinations in the world they all have bike shares. So this is going to put Chattanooga on the international radar."
Outdoor Chattanooga is also working with the Office of Sustainability to improve bicycle racks and create long-term parking options for residents who travel using their own bicycles.