Bicycle share stations, which allow users to rent a bike for a fee from an automated kiosk or from a smartphone app, are gaining momentum in Atlanta and the Perimeter area.
The Relay Bike Share system opened two new stations in Buckhead in mid-July, a partnership with MARTA was launched July 14 and the system was expanded by 500 bikes in April.
Private bike shares have also opened in the Perimeter area, including ones at the Perimeter Summit office complex in Brookhaven and the Concourse Corporate Center in Sandy Springs. They operate on private property and are unavailable to the public.
Atlanta’s Chief Bicycle Officer Becky Katz oversaw the Relay Bike Share 100-bike launch in May 2016. Since then, the program has been expanded to 500 bikes at 65 stations throughout Atlanta, but none were installed in Buckhead until July 2017. Within the next five years, Katz expects the number of bikes to balloon to 1,000 at 130 stations throughout the city.
To determine where the bikes will go, Katz and the other city officials rely on public input about where residents want bikes and what routes they want to take. Katz also takes into account the number of residential and commercial buildings around the area and what transit options are close by.
One goal of the bike share system is to provide what’s called “last-mile connectivity,” which is getting a transit rider from a station or stop to his or her destination.
To help accomplish last-mile connectivity, the Relay Bike Share program has partnered with MARTA to provide bike maintenance stations and bike racks at all MARTA stations. Actual bike share stations are open only at seven MARTA stations so far. A Relay Bike Share station will open in the coming weeks at the Lenox MARTA station.
Bike racks have been placed inside MARTA stations because people feel safer locking bikes within the MARTA gates, but it is important for the bike rental stations be outside of MARTA stations so that people not riding the train can also rent the bikes, Katz said.
Providing bike shares at Perimeter-area MARTA stations is also on the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts’ radar. Ann Hanlon, the executive director of the PCIDs, said the organization wants to help make the area more bike friendly.
“We are very fortunate to have three rail stations in our area, and making them easier to get to is definitely one of our priorities,” Hanlon said.
Getting bike share stations to Buckhead took longer because it required signing licensing agreements with private property owners, Katz said. But placing them on private property is important in Buckhead because there is limited public right of way on which to place them, she said.
The support of Buckhead residents’ helped encourage Atlanta to get bike shares in Buckhead and Denise Starling, the executive director of Livable Buckhead, was an integral force in getting the private businesses on board and bringing the bike share stations to the neighborhood, Katz said.
Starling said Livable Buckhead has been working on attracting the bike share stations to the neighborhood for several months, and choose the locations at Piedmont Center, Tower Place and the Lenox MARTA stations to improve last-mile connectivity. The two office buildings are off
Piedmont Road and close to the MARTA station, so adding bike share stations to them will allow people to get from the train station to work much easier, she said.
PATH400, especially after it eventually connects to the Atlanta BeltLine, makes a Buckhead “a great place to ride,” Katz said.
Starling said Buckhead residents she has heard from have been excited, but she and others involved with the program have to evaluate the program’s success and usage data before deciding to add more.
“Buckhead is not as bike-friendly as other communities in Atlanta,” Starling said.
Starling said Livable Buckhead will do awareness and education campaigns so people know where the bikes are and how to use them, and will also publish route suggestions to give people an idea of how they could improve their commute.
Officials with the Atlanta program also aim to make the bike share system equitable and available to a wide variety of people by placing bikes throughout the city. They also introduced in April reduced membership pricing for community members that receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, so lower-income people could more easily rent bikes.
“We want the bikes to be accessible to everyone,” Katz said.
SNAP recipients receive a discounted rate of a $5 monthly membership, compared to the $15 regular monthly fee. An annual membership is also available for $10 a month, and individual rides are $3.50 for 30 minutes. Riders can pay by credit card at the bike station or on the Social Bicycles smartphone app. To find a bike, visit relaybikeshare.com/map.
Starling said Livable Buckhead deliberately waited to be a part of the city’s system instead of trying to implement other bike share stations.
“You get more out of it in a bigger system,” she said.
In recent months, “rogue” bike shares, or bicycle rental companies not operated in conjunction with the city but are placed on public property, have popped up in Midtown.
“We think competition is good, but all operators need to be held to the same level of service,” Katz said. They need to be equitably distributed and properly insured, she said.
The companies often require hefty deposits, making them not available to everyone, she said. If people have trouble with using them or if, for example, they are left on public property blocking sidewalks, they “could give bike share a bad name,” she said.
If private bike share companies are only on private property, it is up to the property owner to enforce the rules and regulate the companies, she said.
Hanlon said the PCIDs have every option on the table for improving residents’ and employees’ commutes, including bike share. There are a couple of private bike share stations for tenants of the complexes at Perimeter Summit in Brookhaven and at Concourse Corporate Center in Sandy Springs, home to the iconic pair of skyscrapers often called the “King and Queen,” Hanlon said. She believes a blend of these private and public bike shares would probably be the best way to get people riding bikes.
A spokesperson for Perimeter Summit’s management company, Seven Oaks, said the office, residential and hotel complex uses a company called Zagster, which has partnered with city governments and several universities.
The bike share at Perimeter Summit is only available to hotel guests, residents and office building tenants who must use a special access code. The bike share systems at Concourse are also only accessible to tenants and operate in a similar way. They are located outside of several of the complex’s buildings.
Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company, said in 2016 it has sent a proposal to Sandy Springs to partner with Zagster to install public bike share stations around the city. Zagster has already has partnered with Smyrna, Alpharetta and Kennesaw’s Town Center Community Improvement District to install systems.
If the Perimeter area was able to get bike share stations, Hanlon said it could bring business and workers to the area.
“It would be hugely important in bringing business here and in getting employees to want to come here,” she said.