Excited about a ride (but mostly excited about not walking) across the Scenic City, I dusted my inner thighs with Gold Bond, covered them with my bicycle shorts and headed down to the rent-a-bike rack in front of Renaissance Park. Unfortunately, my Tour de Chatt was not to be; the bikes were secured as tightly as I had previously held onto my excitement.
The Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System operated by Alta Bicycle Share hasn’t gotten off to the rolling start that we predicted. Those beautiful blue and green two-wheelers, poised so neatly in their conveniently placed kiosks, have been little more than eye-candy so far. A posting on their website explains (kind of) the delay: “Beta testing of the City of Chattanooga’s Bike Chattanooga Bicycle Transit system must be prolonged, due to the need for additional technical adjustments. Public launch will be delayed until the system works flawlessly for the public.” That is promising news, but unfortunately it was posted to their website back on May 8. By now I’ve been stretching my glutes and hams for a while.
Since when did this borrow-a-bike idea become rocket science? What do you have to do to get a bike around here, calibrate a satellite? Well … um … yeah, you kind of do in a way. “Bike Chattanooga’s hardware and software is a completely new generation of technology for bicycle transit systems, and will set a new standard for the industry,” Alta explained. Oh. That sounds serious.
In fact it is. Outdoor Chattanooga Bicycle Coordinator Phil Pugliese explained that Chattanooga is the launch-pad for Alta’s new technological system, and with that comes some glitches that need to be worked out before it’s installed in other cities, like New York, where over 10,000 bicycles are scheduled to be available for sharing by the end of July: “Basically the vendor is developing new technology that includes many upgrades over previous designs and that has taken longer than expected. It’s a complex system involving tracking the bicycles, credit card operations, solar mast and new color LCD screens. Launch dates are always tricky, but the main thing is that the bikes are here, they’re in place, they’re functioning and we’re getting very close to opening operations.” Which is good news, not only for Chattanooga, but also for the other cities who stand to benefit from new bicycle-sharing technology.