Atlanta’s proposed bike share program gets first look by City Council this week

City officials recommend mayor ink five-year deal with CycleHop


Your dreams of checking out a bike near your Midtown office and pedaling to Broad Street for lunch are quickly becoming a reality.

Atlanta’s first-ever bike share program could take a major step forward on Tuesday. Members of an Atlanta City Council committee will vet a proposal recommending Mayor Kasim Reed start negotiations with a team that will install more than 50 bicycle rental stations around town, deliver a minimum of 500 custom two wheelers, and operate the program.

City Hall officials have recommended a five-year contract with CycleHop LLC, a company that has built and managed Phoenix’s bike share program and recently won contracts in Tampa and Orlando. We’re told that Social Bicycles, which partnered CycleHop with in Tampa, will provide the equipment. Atlanta-based Center Forward will work on siting, coordination with neighborhoods, community improvement districts, universities, and other stakeholders. The firm will also help conduct public outreach. The bikes used in the program, which we’re also told comes at no cost to city, will have an integrated GPS system and would not have to be locked up at a kiosk. You can also reserve a bike via the web or an app.

“CycleHop’s model will allow greater flexibility than some of the other systems in use, while retaining their advantages,” says Rebecca Serna of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “The bikes have internal locking mechanisms, so they can be locked anywhere - useful if the station you arrive at is full. They aren’t locked in to one style of bike either, making e-bikes an option at some point if the demand is there. Their lower-cost station model makes it possible for the system to be privately funded, so the city isn’t having to invest public dollars.”

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CycleHop boasts of more than 20 years in the bicycle industry. On its website, it claims it received a U.S. patent for the first “Unattended Automated Bicycle Rental Station” in 1997 and has worked since to build bike share programs across the country. Social Bicycles’ leadership team has worked with New York’s bicycle program, among many others.

The move is part of an effort by City Hall, following the prodding of two-wheeler advocates and launch of projects in other cities across the country, to boost bicycling in the city. Over the past year, the city has opted to invest more than $2 million to build buffered bike lanes and other facilities. Eleven of those projects are expected to begin construction in the next month.

Serna notes that it’s vital the city continue funding a “safe and connected” bike network that includes buffered and separated lanes to make people feel comfortable pedaling in the city.

“We’ve come a long way, and opportunities like Cycle Atlanta and next year’s transportation bond leave us hopeful, but watchful,” she says. “We’ll continue to organize and advocate for more and better infrastructure for people on bikes in our city.”

Melissa Mullinax, a spokeswoman for Reed, says city officials “hope and expect” the program to be up and running before Spring 2015. They haven’t decided which neighborhoods will first get the bike share kiosks. When the city released a request for proposals last May, it urged interested contractors to study the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s feasibility study. That report found Midtown, Downtown, West End, the Atlanta University Center, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, Little Five Points, Virginia-Highland, and Buckhead to be ideal neighborhoods.

Mullinax says the exact locations will be decided after the city holds “public conservations” with residents and businesses. “The idea is we want to have equity,” she says.

Should the Community Development and Human Resources committee recommend the proposal move forward, the full Council would vote on the proposal on Feb. 3. The contract would then need to be ironed out between the city and companies. And if the contract gets an OK and these racks get installed, be prepared to learn how hilly Atlanta really is!