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December 22, 2011

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It wasn’t the finest day to show off Bike Chattanooga’s Bicycle Transit System. A heavy, soupy fog enveloped the Walnut Street Bridge and most of Chattanooga on Wednesday, Dec. 14, as representatives from Outdoor Chattanooga and Alta Bicycle Share met the media and curious onlookers to demonstrate the new Bike Chattanooga program.

But more than a few brave cyclists climbed about the spiffy new bikes to weave their way through the mist of the bridge to take part in the demonstration ahead of a full spring launch for the program. Next year, Chattanooga will become the first city in the Southeast with a full-scale bike transit system.

The demonstration was the first of several scheduled this month to bring attention to the program, designed to help locals and tourists cycle around town on errands, to shop or expore downtown sans the parking hassles.

Jeremy Pomp, general manager of Bike Chattanooga, said he hopes the program will succeed as it has elsewhere.

“I can’t say for sure how long it will take for noticeable involvement.” he said, but points to the expansion of other bike-share programs in Washington D.C. and Boston as a guide. “Capital Bikeshare is expanding dramatically in its second year and Hubway will be expanding as well after the winter season. I expect Bike Chattanooga to have similar results once the product is on the ground in the spring. It will be transformative for the city of Chattanooga.”

The kiosks and bicycles—which feature stylish, colorful, comfortable step-through frames, seven-speed internalized gear hubs, a chain guard, fenders, a basket and front and rear lights—designed and maintained by Alta Bicycle Share, which operates similar programs around the globe, are another effort on the part of the city to go green, eliminating smog, traffic congestion and parking problems around the city.

The process is simple. Frequent riders can purchase an annual membership online at bikechattanooga.com for $60 (an “early-bird” special and $15 off the $75 fee when the progam launches in the spring). Riders wanting a quick adventure can purchase a 24-hour membership for $6. More than 300 bicycles will be parked at 30 docks around the city, available 24/7 all year long. When the program launches, annual members will receive a key to unlock a bike from the dock. Non-members can rent the bicycles for 24 hours by purchasing time at kiosks adjacent to the docks. Trips under 60 minutes are included in the cost of the rental, but longer rides incur usage fees from $5 for 30 minutes over the first hour up to a $100 maximum for 11 to 24 hours.

If you need a bike longer, Bike Chattanooga suggests you rent from a local shop. Demo stations are located at the south end of the Walnut Street Bridge and in front of the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Market Street.

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December 22, 2011

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