Bike share programs are sweeping the nation as a more active and healthy way to get around without having to bring a bicycle. These programs allow both residents and visitors to rent a bike for recreation, sightseeing, errands and the like for a few hours a day for a simple fee. One simply has to open the free phone app, enter credit card information, receive a code to unlock the key and use the key to unlock the bike. The bike can then be returned to any station throughout the city when the ride is complete.
Alpharetta, Ga., model
According to Amy Rickman, the marketing and accreditation coordinator at the city of Alpharetta Recreation and Parks Department, the bike share program in Alpharetta was introduced by Mayor David Belle-Isle after seeing success with similar programs in other cities, such as the one in Smyrna, Ga. After sending out various proposal requests, Zagster was chosen to be contracted as the city’s partner in the implementation of the program. The Alpharetta Parks Department is the primary contact with Zagster; however, the mayor, council and other city departments are kept updated as to major program updates, such as the new station launch dates.
The responsibilities of the program are shared between the city and Zagster. The city pays an annual service fee to Zagster to cover its responsibilities and, in turn, receives quarterly dividends from the membership and usage revenue. The city assists Zagster by finding potential new program partners who wish to add stations or bikes. It also choses the station locations along Big Creek Greenway, the city’s nature trails, and park department workers check the stations during routine inspections and report any concerns to Zagster.
Zagster is responsible for all ongoing service maintenance on the bikes, replacing them when necessary and addressing any concerns the city may have with the usage and maintenance of the bikes. The company also maintains the program’s webpage, app, software and updates and then communicates with the city liaison on these topics as well as marketing and the program’s status. Zagster works with other area businesses and developers, too — entities that might add and fund an additional station to the program.
At the launch of the original three stations in May 2016 Mayor Belle-Isle stated, “I think you’re going to find a lot of people, spur of the moment, spontaneously will want to go from downtown to Avalon, or they’ll be near the Greenway and don’t have their bikes. And that’s the idea, just to create that opportunity.” The program has been well received by the community with 20 bikes now available at five different locations. According to Rickman, “For Mayor Belle-Isle, the long-term plan is to connect downtown Alpharetta, Avalon and the Big Creek Greenway.”
Canton, Ohio, model
The BikeSmart program in Canton, Ohio, is remarkably similar to the Alpharetta, Ga., model with one primary difference: Its partnership also includes Zagster, but is between the Stark County Park District, Canton Parks and Recreation and the Stark County District Library. This difference means residents with library cards are able to rent a bike free of charge.
In 2014 middle school students attended a TomTod Ideas’ Canton Dreamoratory camp. During the camp, students met with community leaders to discuss challenges within the community and possible solutions. At this point the students realized the need for an alternative means of transportation that could be both affordable and accessible as well as promote healthier lifestyles. The BikeSmart ribbon cutting launch took place in June 2015.
Jean Duncan McFarren, the Stark County District Library deputy director, said, “The goal of BikeSmart was to provide an accessible bicycle sharing program to the community free of charge so both residents and visitors would have access to alternative transportation and options for a healthier lifestyle.”
While the initial hope was to create a model that did not require a credit card — namely residents would only need their library cards — all parties involved were forced to modify their model when, after the first year, one-third of the bikes went missing. Now a resident can still borrow a bike for free, but billing information must be added prior to use in case the bike is not returned.
The city currently has 36 total bikes available at six different locations such as libraries and community centers. McFarren believes they will eventually begin partnerships with local universities and businesses, including the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to further expand in coming years. The city also hopes to make this alternative means of transportation accessible to underserved and low income neighborhoods.
Why is it so effective?
Zagster communications manager Jon Terbush believes the mid-sized version of the bike share program is great for smaller cities because it makes the system more versatile and convenient. The company works closely with the city since “municipal programs require collaboration across a range of municipal and non-governmental organizations.” Zagster also wants to ensure that each city’s program is meeting its needs and expectations.
According to research, Terbush said, “Bike sharing benefits both riders and the communities where they live. For riders, bike sharing is an efficient, healthy and convenient way to get around. Bike shares are perfect for last-mile trips when linked to public transit, they promote active lifestyles and, when compared to other public transit options, they’re incredibly cost-effective.
He added, “For communities, bike sharing is a sustainable, environmentally friendly service that alleviates traffic congestion and eases parking demand; forms crucial connections between other forms of transit to create comprehensive transportation systems; addresses the global shift in transportation preferences away from car ownership, which helps to attract new residents, visitors and businesses; and drives economic growth. A study of Minneapolis’ bike share found that each ride added more than $7 to the local economy.”