Atlanta’s bike share efforts this week set stage for planned 2015 opening

By David Pendered

It’s not glamorous, but the work Atlanta officials are grinding out this summer is setting the stage for the city’s bicycle share program that’s to launch in 2015.

Atlanta is implementing its bike share program without a transportation planner. File/Credit: socialbicycles.com

Atlanta is implementing its bike share program without a transportation planner. File/Credit: socialbicycles.com

The council approved, after last January’s snowstorm, the contracts with a bike share operator and bike provider. The next step is for the city to make it legal for the bike facilities to operate. The pertinent legislation is pending for review Tuesday and Wednesday by committees of the Atlanta City Council.

The idea behind bike share is for folks to be able to rent a bicycle at a self-service facility and return it to the same facility or another location. Atlanta is not paying a dime for the program because the vendor agreed to find a corporate sponsor to defray costs, Lanii Thomas, of the city’s planning department, said Monday.

The council is slated to approve the two proposals at its July 7 meeting, presuming the two ordinances pass muster this week with the council’s Utilities Committee and Zoning Committee.

The Utilities Committee on Tuesday is to consider legislation that is the workhorse for the city’s implementation of a bike share program. The zoning measure basically protects residential and historic areas.

The two phase 1 areas for Atlanta's planned rental bike-share program are in Buckhead, and Midtown/Downtown Atlanta. Decatur is handling its program. Credit: issuu.com/atlantabike/docs/atl-dec_bikeshare_book_lowres

The two phase 1 areas for Atlanta’s planned rental bike-share program are in Buckhead, and Midtown/Downtown Atlanta. Decatur is handling its program. Credit: issuu.com/atlantabike/docs/atl-dec_bikeshare_book_lowres

The utilities issues that are to be overseen by Utilities Committee Chairperson Natalyn Archibong include the following provisions:

  • “No station shall interfere with the reasonable visibility needs of drivers on the street where the station is located or any connecting street.
  • “No station shall interfere with the flow of pedestrian traffic taking into consideration the queuing areas for adjacent businesses, the size of the station and the width of the sidewalk.
  • “No station shall be located so as to unreasonably interfere with businesses located on the same block (block faces) as the proposed station location….
  • “It shall be unlawful to erect or maintain a station on private property except as permitted by the Commissioner of Planning through an endorsement of a special administrative permit (“SAP”) obtained from the office of planning….
  • “All Stations to be located on private property shall be erected, operated and maintained by the provider in conformity with the city’s zoning ordinance, including without limitation, the requirements as to signage, Station size and design, as evidenced by the approval of an SAP [special administrative permit] by the Commissioner of Planning.
  • “Before a permit for a station to be located on private property can be approved, the applicant must submit design plans, to be accompanied by photographs and any other required supporting documents, to the Commissioner of Planning for approval.
  • “All SAPs [special administrative permits] shall be reviewed by the Urban Design Commission.”

The Zoning Committee, headed by Chairperson Yolanda Adrean, on Wednesday is to consider a proposal that would enable a bike rental facility to operate on private property. The city already has approved such operations in the public rights-of-way.

The proposal makes clear that the city seeks to protect residential districts and historic areas from becoming bike share area.

Bike share facilities would be banned outright in residential areas. In regards to historic districts, Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission is designated as the arbiter.

The language in the proposal states that the city intends to provide that:

  • “Private Self Service Bicycle Rental Stations are permitted only as an accessory use to a primary use that is regularly open for business or occupancy and may be located in any zoning district except for [residential districts or planned residential developments];
  • “Provided however when any district, parcel or building is designated or is otherwise regulated by the Historic Preservation Ordinance, the Urban Design Commission’s approval for the construction of the Station as an accessory use to the designated property shall be required.”

All these efforts stem from support from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Reed’s office released a statement earlier this year saying:

  • “In 2012, Mayor Kasim Reed committed to the goal of making bicycling an integral part of daily life for Atlanta residents, workers and visitors by allocating $2.47 million in remaining bond funds to complete several key bicycle projects by 2016. These projects, along with others by the City and its partners, will add 50 miles of multi-use trails, bike lanes, and cycle tracks over the next two years.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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