Rent a bike just like a Zipcar: Atlanta to close deal on bike-share program

By David Pendered

The centerpiece of Atlanta’s plan to start its first bike-share program is slated to be approved Monday by the Atlanta City Council. Bikes are to be rolling within a year.

A SoBi bike comes equiped with fenders, front basket capable of handling a 20-pound payload, step-over frame, and adjustable, non-removable seat to accomodate riders ranging in height from 4 feet, 11 inches to 6 feet, 6 inches. Credit: socialbicycles.com

A SoBi bike comes equiped with fenders, front basket capable of handling a 20-pound payload, step-over frame, and adjustable, non-removable seat to accommodate riders ranging in height from 4 feet, 11 inches to 6 feet, 6 inches. Credit: socialbicycles.com

The plan is for a private vendor to provide at least 500 rental bikes for use during a five-year contract. The two start-up areas are in Buckhead and Midtown/Downtown Atlanta, according to the legislation. Rental prices have not been released.

Atlanta is requiring each bike to be equipped with an array of comfort and safety features: At least seven gears, fenders, chain guards, luggage basket or rack, and a self-generating headlight. Bikes reservations will be handled via the Internet.

The competitive contract for Atlanta’s bike-share program was won by CycleHop LLC. CEO Josh Squire is based in Chicago and has worked in the rental bike business since at least 2006, according to his Linkedin profile.

The actual bicycles will be provided by New York-based Social Bikes, according to the Buckhead CID’s newsletter. SoBi’s value-add to the program is the way it tracks the rental bicycles, and allows them to be picked up and dropped off just about anywhere.

This system of “floating” bicycles is similar to college campuses, some of which have a stock of communal bicycles. This system also is less expensive to provide than a system that has a network of fixed rental stations.

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

Here’s how SoBi CEO Ryan Rzepecki described the check-in/check-out system in an interview posted on bikeshare.com:

  • “Our bikes have an integrated GPS-enabled locking system that works with regular bike racks. Riders can reserve these bikes using a web browser, mobile application, or from the keypad interface on the bike. We have removed the security and authorization system from the docking station and put it onto the bike itself.”

Rzepecki also described the process by which renters will handle the transaction via the Internet:

  • “Most people have access to a web browser, tablet, or smartphone at some point during the day. We believe these interfaces are a much better way for on-boarding new users than tiny, poorly illuminated screens on an outdoor kiosk. We have a simple web registration form to sign up for the service the same way you would sign up for Netflix, Zipcar, or any other web-enabled platform.”

Atlanta-based Iconologic will head marking and sponsorship, according to the Buckhead CID. Iconologic was created about 30 years ago and is doing some major work for Visa and Powerade for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, according to its website.

Terms of the contract call for at least half of the entry level positions to be filled with residents of Atlanta who are recruited through the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency’s First Source Jobs Program.

Atlanta’s bike-share program is the direct outgrowth of a study commissioned by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Funding was provided by a grant from the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.

The city advised vendors that their adherence to the coalition’s study was part of the selection criteria, according to Atlanta’s May 2012 request for proposals for a, “Self service bicycle rental program.” The report was included in the RFP issued by the city.

The bike-share program represents Atlanta’s ongoing efforts to promote bicycling as an alternative means of transportation. Atlanta’s ambitious goal is to double the mileage of bicycle travel lanes and shared paths by 2016. A related component is Atlanta’s desire to make cycling so attractive that the number of bicyclists will double.

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.

3 replies
  1. qcompson says:

    Great! Atlanta has such a need for transportation options beyond just the automobile. We’re an absolute laughing-stock after that snowstorm debacle. I’ve used bike share in other cities and it’s great idea when executed well. I hope the Atlanta system gets the details right. This will be great for short trips and for extending the usefulness of MARTA.Report

    Reply
  2. Bikelover says:

    I hope Atlanta fares better than the other cities CycleHop is trying to get off the ground. They don’t even have a business plan. When it sounds too good to be true, it usually is…Report

    Reply

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