A bike-sharing program, the first of its kind in Chattanooga, is on schedule to ease the frustration of anyone who has ever muttered under their breath about downtown parking or congestion slowing their commute to lunch, officials said.
Hundreds of bikes purchased with a more than $2 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be kept in 30 stations between Main Street, the North Shore and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. People will be able to check out the bikes from the racks with their credit cards. Using a bike for an hour is $6 while an annual membership costs $75 and gives unlimited use of bikes in hourly increments.
If someone doesn't return the bike, the cost will be charged to their credit card.
Bike Chattanooga, organized by Outdoor Chattanooga, will launch this winter but people can begin signing up for memberships to the bike-sharing program in a few weeks.
"Bike sharing has been exploding all around the world," said Philip Pugliese, bicycle coordinator with Outdoor Chattanooga. "This just adds another layer of transporation choice to move people around the city without adding additional air pollution or parking spaces."
Students at UTC are expected to be some of the biggest benefactors of the new program that has been in the works for two years.
Over the years students have approached the school about starting a bike-sharing program. Finding room for a bike in a small dorm room or car can be difficult. Bikes also are expensive, said Dee Dee Anderson, associate vice chancellor for student development at UTC. The university is in talks with Bike Chattanooga to create a formal agreement.
"Anytime we can provide students with choices and alternate transit, it is a good thing for them personally and it's a good thing for our sustainability," said Anderson. "I think students will use it."
Ronald Driver, owner of River City Bicycles on the North Shore, said the city has needed a bike rental option so more people can taste the experience of pedaling from place to place on a bike.
"Someone can rent a bike and then get to lunch and ride back and that will be physically better for people," he said. "And it will be faster. Burn some calories going to lunch, burn some more calories and you are back to work."