If you’ve been in an urban area or prominent city recently, you’ve probably seen brightly colored shareable bikes littered in and around the streets and sidewalks. While bike shares offer a great solution to last-mile connectivity, amongst other benefits, they do have their challenges. Many companies have brought their bikes into an area unannounced, forcing various municipalities to take action retroactively. The process for suburban areas, however, has looked a little different.
In January 2015, I had just taken on the role of executive director of the Town Center CID. In meeting with the then-chairman of our board of directors, Mason Zimmerman, we discussed the relatively new concept of a bike share program, and before we knew it, we were on the path to implementing one. We feverishly began a hunt for the best bike share company for our community. As the first CID in Georgia to launch a bike share program, we wanted to be confident that we were making the best selection for our district. That is what led us to the lock-to bike share model, which led us to Zagster.
What’s so special about this model?
Zagster remains one of the only bike share providers to offer a lock-to system. While others provide a high-tech station with a low-tech bike, Zagster offers the opposite. All the technology is in the bike itself. Zagster’s stations by themselves are low-tech and simply create a place for your bike to have a home once the ride is complete. The bike’s locking mechanism functions via Bluetooth in tandem with Zagster’s smartphone app. To end your ride, you must lock your bike to a branded station. A dockless bike share station does not require the user to lock their bike when ending their ride. While this allows for convenience and a customizable end location, bikes end up in unpredictable and uncontrolled areas. Too many bikes then begin to look cluttered and messy instead of organized and accessible like they’re intended to be.
Scalability and Flexibility
We began our bike share program with just three purposefully placed stations. Located along the Noonday Creek Trail, they allow riders to pass hundreds of businesses, restaurants and other amenities offering scenic views along the way. Our strategy was to start small and grow thoughtfully and deliberately. At conception, we had a long-term plan of adding additional stations in the district and connecting our system to other programs throughout the region. We saw overwhelming success as the community eagerly embraced the new bike share program, which confirmed the immediate need for solutions. As Zagster’s partners, we can identify a new location and organize installation one station at a time.
For the Town Center CID, a bike share creates an excellent source of transportation and an affordable source of recreation and exploration. Our area consists of employees, students, residents and visitors. Bike shares also provide a way for communities to have the amenity of a bike without having to own one full-time. All types of users can use our bikes for recreation, exploration, transportation or all of the above.
Creating a bike share program only amplified the already recognized need for both short- and long-term solutions to metro Atlanta mobility. Zagster is more than just a bike share company, they are a micromobility company that brings safer, more affordable transportation options to commuters. The primary stakeholders of the CID are our commercial property owners in the district, and it is essential to these stakeholders that multimodal travel is available to their tenants and employees. The alignment of our micromobility goals leads to the ideal partnership that creates options now and for future growth.
What’s the bottom line?
As a CID, infrastructure improvements will remain a priority for us as we consider holistic communities, which includes making multi-modal movement safe and available for travelers in our area. In 2008, the Town Center CID completed a seven-mile on- and off-road path, the Noonday Creek Trail. This was just the tip of the iceberg of infrastructure, setting the scene for multimodal transportation. Forward-thinking micromobility solutions are evolving daily, giving us endless options to consider. Yet the simplest of those remain–bikes are available now and provide an alternative to vehicular travel today. While some bike share companies are retracting or banned, thoughtful and strategic partnerships, like that of the Town Center CID and Zagster, are thriving and expanding.
Since inception, our bike share system has doubled, and we have added stations at an apartment building, a newly constructed linear park and more. Most recently, with the partnership of the Town Center Community Alliance, we installed a bike share station at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park sponsored by Cobb & Douglas Public Health. The connections that this program creates begin to knit together the ultimate goal of a connected bike system far beyond just our bike share.
When purposeful infrastructure projects and an assortment of mobility solutions come together, we can create communities that work for every type of traveler. Bike shares serve as a significant and immediate piece of the mobility puzzle that, when tactically planned, begin to create solutions in our quickly changing society. The evidence is clear. The question is, what will you do with it?