With Effective Metro Transit Still Years Away, Bike Shares Offer Flexibility and Accessibility—Right Now
Everyone in metro Atlanta knows transportation issues are complex. Recent municipal agendas have included regional transportation opportunities, but it will take time for long-term solutions to be fully funded and implemented.
Bike share programs, however, have already proven successful in metro counties. In Cobb, the Town Center CID, Kennesaw State University campus, city of Smyrna, and the Cumberland CID have seen residents, students, visitors and employees utilize bikes for healthy recreation, affordable activity and a flexible transportation solution.
Bikes are one of the easiest ways to travel and explore, and bike shares offer greater accessibility within local neighborhoods. So why aren’t we using bikes to go even farther?
Let’s look at the everyday benefits of bike shares and the potential of a regionally connected system!
Bike shares offer a chance to:
Use a Different Mode of Transportation
The world is not moving completely away from cars anytime soon, especially in the near-dependent metro Atlanta market. Ideally, bike shares should be just one component of a broader transportation network.
Urban mobility often leaves gaps between transit methods, which district planners refer to as “last mile-first mile trips¹.” Bike shares offer a perfect solution for these spaces because they can connect each leg of your journey and make your everyday travel options more flexible. You may carpool to lunch one day and ride a bike home, or you may bike to transit every day for work. Within a comprehensive transportation system, you have more options to go carless, which makes the roads less congested2.
Choose a Healthier Way to Get Around
Bikes are a healthy, low-impact and fun way to travel. There are numerous benefits to personal health—plus, riding is an environmentally friendly option. When bikes are readily available, people choose to ride instead of taking unnecessary trips by car, which reduces vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.
Studies show that biking can even make you more efficient at work. You are more personally productive if you can make exercise a part of your workday as opposed to solely during leisure time1.
Spend Less, Share More
A huge draw to bike shares is that they are affordable and accommodating. They remove economic and equitable barriers, and they offer quality mobility option for the nearly one-third of Americans who don’t drive³. Between the rising costs of cars, gas, tolls and parking, more people are looking for alternatives to driving that are easier on their wallets. The bike share solution serves our modern share economy, allowing individuals to rent bikes on an “as-needed” basis without the costs and responsibilities associated with ownership4.
Make Streets Safer
There is strong evidence that bike shares improve the safety of all bike riders. They encourage additional cycling, which increases visibility and normalizes the presence of bikes on crowded corridors. NACTO’s new analysis of bike share equity asserts a positive feedback loop between bike share, the creation of protected bike networks and overall cyclist safety5. When more people ride bikes in a specific area, bicycling and walking infrastructure improvements follow, further reducing the risk of riding. For the past decade, the Town Center CID has prioritized comprehensive paved trail networks so that riders have appropriate infrastructure for an easier and safer ride.
So, what do you think? Would your community benefit from a bike share?
The Case for Regional Connectivity
When it comes to transportation (not to mention recreation and safety), the most effective thing district planners like the Town Center CID can do is provide options. According to a survey by Cobb Forward’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan, metro residents think regional priorities should be to enhance mobility in a cost-effective way. Bike shares are a relatively inexpensive, immediate step towards regional connectivity and transportation flexibility.
A regional system represents the next level of bike-share success for metro Atlanta. With bikes as a shared resource, communities will attract both people and dollars. Ever take one of those hop-on/hop-off city tourism buses? A large-scale bike shares offers the same self-serve functionality.
The Town Center CID’s nonprofit partner, the Town Center Community Alliance, manages the bike share program in its district. It represents part of the Alliance’s creative placemaking efforts, which include public amenities that attract investments and tourism. Each bike share station is set up where there is evidence of need and activity. Then, as a user, you log in to your local program to rent a bike.
One challenge with the bike shares in metro Atlanta is that each system operates independently. Therefore, you are limited to using a bike primarily within its home district, limiting extended riding. After all, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to rent a bike in Smyrna, ride it to Marietta for your commute, and pay for the rental all day just so you can ride back when finished. This negates the point of bike sharing, which is to rent only for the time you use the bike.
In July 2019, Cobb County passed an ordinance allowing bike share companies to operate within the county, so we can expect more districts and municipalities to start adding their own bike shares. This event opened up the mobility option to the entire county and in turn, the opportunity to connect our separate sharing systems into one combined regional system. With an integrated bike network, Cobb County could allow riders to take fluid trips without having to switch systems or bounce between stations.
The Town Center CID currently has six bike share stations throughout its six-square-mile district, and its next expansion goal is to further connect with adjacent communities. The Alliance invited Zagster, who operates all six Cobb bike share programs, to analyze and present the possibilities for a larger program. We have brought together our neighbors—two CIDs, nine cities and a dozen unincorporated neighborhoods—to discuss how this extension program will benefit the region as a whole. Combining bike share systems will enhance regional connectivity, facilitate new fruitful partnerships and create a brighter future for the county.
- Ariana Hendrix. The Economic Benefits of Bike Sharing. May 18, 2017
- https://medium.com/urbansharing/the-economic-benefits-of-bike-sharing-f69c230e5a9dStreetsBlogCAL. The Benefits of Bike-Share Are Huge And Varied. Melanie Curry. Dec 2, 2015 https://cal.streetsblog.org/2015/12/02/the-benefits-of-bike-share-are-huge-and-varied/
- Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Trails & Greenways: Advancing the Smart Growth Agenda. Hugh Morris. September 2002
- Martin LaMonica. The global bike sharing boom—why cities love a cycling scheme. The Conversation. February 12, 2016. https://theconversation.com/the-global-bike-sharing-boom-why-cities-love-a-cycling-scheme-53895
- National Association of City Transportation Officials. Equitable Bike Share Means Building Better Places for People to Ride. NACTO Bike SHARE Equity Practitioners’ Paper #3 July 2016. http://usa.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/07/NACTO_Equitable-Bike-Share-Means-Building-Better-Places-To-Ride.pdf