Smyrna paves the way for riders with new bike-share program

Small scale and low cost allowed the suburb to beat more walkable areas to the punch
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Smyrna bike-share
Illustration by Natalie K. Nelson

One pristine day in October, Tiffany Wallace laced up pink sneakers before heading out the door on a lunch break from her job at Smyrna City Hall. She made a beeline for a seven-gear cruiser adorned with a little basket and bell—one of 16 bikes available as part of the Jonquil City’s new bike-share program, the first in metro Atlanta and the second in Georgia. Wallace pedaled around for a while, locked up the bike via her cellphone, and returned to work revived. “When it’s a beautiful day,” says Wallace, “you can’t beat some Vitamin D and some exercise.”

Wallace is among the 340 residents who have signed up for the mostly free program, which launched last September. (Rides shorter than four hours are gratis, and it’s $5 per hour after that, up to $40.) The fleet of bikes—managed by Zagster, a Massachusetts-based vendor, and tracked by antitheft geofencing technology—is spread among four stations that operate like kiosks; each one is near the city’s 12-mile network of multiuse trails. Signing up is as simple as registering on the website or downloading an app; riders can then use their smartphones or send a text to unlock and check out a bike.

The small scale and relatively low cost—the city spent $33,000 to enlist Zagster, build stations, and lease the bikes—allowed suburban Smyrna to beat more walkable urban centers to the bike-share punch. “We knew it was going to be a bit of a coup to be the first on the ground,” says Smyrna City Council member Teri Anulewicz, who dreamed up the concept after using a similar bike-share system in Austin. Anulewicz says the Smyrna program is poised for expansion and that renewing a $24,000 annual contract with the city’s vendor will be a no-brainer. “For our residents, it really enhances their quality of life and sense of place.”

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Atlanta officials are optimistic that their own public bike share (with 500 cycles and 50 stations) will start rolling sometime this year, under the guidance of vendor CycleHop and the city’s first chief bicycle officer, Becky Katz. Decatur, which had also been eyeing a bike-share program, shelved the idea until city officials can evaluate how Atlanta’s program is working.

This article originally appeared in our January 2016 issue under the headline “Pedal Push.”

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