Ringgold eyes Chattanooga's bike share program

photo A cyclist rides past a row of bicycles Friday in front of the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Alta Bicycle Share and PBSC Urban Solutions began beta testing today of the city's Bike Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System.

Bike Chattanooga is due to go live any day now, and officials in Ringgold, Ga., are watching closely -- because they'd like a bike-share program, too.

The swipe of a debit or credit card soon will allow cyclists to unlock one of 300 seven-speed bicycles at 30 bike-share docks around Chattanooga. Cyclists will tool around, then park the borrowed bike at a dock near their destination.

Designed for sightseeing tourists, college kids getting around town and downtown dwellers making short shopping trips, Chattanooga's bike share program is modeled after those in London, Boston and Washington, D.C.

Ringgold, Ga., would make a good addition to that list, City Councilman Nick Millwood said.

"I think we're set up pretty nicely for it," the freshman councilman said. "It would be nice to see a few less cars and more bikes."

It was Millwood's idea to have a presentation about Bike Chattanooga made Monday night to the Ringgold City Council. Jeremy Pomp, general manager of Bike Chattanooga, and Philip Pugliese, bicycle coordinator for Outdoor Chattanooga, attended the meeting and gave details about the program.

"I think it made a decent impression on the other council members," Millwood said Thursday.

He's so sold on the idea that he plans to go door to door in Ringgold to drum up residents' support for it.

A federal grant of about $2 million paid Bike Chattanooga's startup costs and operations for the first year. In the long term, the bike share program should be financially self-sustaining, Pugliese said.

The program is now in its testing phase, with 30 of the program's roughly 100 people who have signed up for an annual membership. City officials say they want to include more members as data comes in on the bikes' usage, though they haven't announced a start date for the general public and aren't accepting members currently.

The program eventually will have 300 bikes and 28 stations around town. Renting a bike costs $6 for a 24-hour period or $75 for an annual card.

After they get the program fully under way, Bike Chattanooga officials will be willing to help area communities to find grants to help set up similar bike shares, Pugliese said.

Another prime spot for a bike-share program, Pugliese said, is Chickamauga Battlefield and the Georgia cities of Chickamauga and Fort Oglethorpe, which abut the battlefield, a bicyclist's haven.

Bike-share programs aim to become part of the fabric of the community by offering a handy way to make short trips, he said.

"It's about the right tools for the right trip," Pugliese said. "There's no need to get a 4,000-pound Hummer to go three blocks to get a loaf of bread."