published Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Chattanooga's bike share program rolls along with room to grow


by Cliff Hightower
From left, Kellsey, Jim (obscured), and Glenda Vickers, of Charleston, S.C. check out the rental bikes near the Ice Cream Show on Thursday afternoon. It has been a year since Chattanooga implemented this Bike Share system, which has become popular among tourists such as the Vickers.
From left, Kellsey, Jim (obscured), and Glenda Vickers, of Charleston, S.C. check out the rental bikes near the Ice Cream Show on Thursday afternoon. It has been a year since Chattanooga implemented this Bike Share system, which has become popular among tourists such as the Vickers.
Photo by Shawn Paik.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 21,395: Bike share trips from July 2012 to May 2013

* 8,745: Day passes sold

* 580: Members with annual passes

Source: Chattanooga

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Nathan Reisinger uses the city's bike share program so much that employees at Bike Chattanooga know him by name. He's logged more than 230 trips, more than any other bike share member.

And he's glad he paid for an annual membership to bike to work at the Tennessee Valley Authority and to classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"It saved me from having to pay for a parking spot," he said.

The Bike Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System, or bike share, started in July 2012 and almost 21,000 trips have been logged since then, records show.

The program has about 580 annual members, and more than 8,700 people have bought passes for the bright green-and-yellow bikes seen on downtown sidewalks.

But there's room to grow, said Phillip Pugliese, the city's bicycle coordinator.

"We wanted to have larger participation by corporate partners, wellness centers and UTC students," he said.

Pugliese said Bike Chattanooga is talking with UTC as well as local businesses and Chattanooga government about forming partnerships.

He said response has been limited so far.

Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Mayor Andy Berke, said the city would want to hear specifics if it were to consider a partnership.

Pugliese said awareness of the bike share program has grown since the first bicycles appeared a year ago, even if participation isn't as high as organizers hoped.

"Perception of it is very positive," he said. "But we haven't been able to get them on it the first time."

Problems have been reported nationwide with bike share programs. Lately, New York City found problems in its first two weeks with machines refusing to take credit card information or bikes being unlocked.

Chattanooga's program experienced similar problems at first, but those have dissipated, Pugliese said.

Reisinger, who bikes more than anyone in the system, said he's seen the number of riders grow.

People sometimes stop and ask him about the bike, he said.

"It perks their curiosity," he said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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