Chattanooga has been on my "to visit" list for years, but its latest attraction has moved it to the top spot. I'm not talking about a river walk, restored historic theater, or arts district. Chattown has had those for a while. What's interesting nowadays is how you get between them.
Bike Chattanooga kicked into gear just about a year ago, and this outdoorsy mountain city has done bike share right. With more than thirty stations and 300 bikes, visitors and locals alike can find bicycles all over town.
As an avid bike share user (albeit in DC), I'd say that having lots of stations matters. When it's easy to pick-up and drop-off bikes, folks are more likely to pedal to work, take leisure rides, or zip across town to meet friends.
In Chattanooga, the commitment is paying off. Forbes just ranked this quaint mountain town right alongside Paris, London, and Montreal as one of ten places where "bikes rule," and riders have racked up some amazing numbers. In the service's first year, people in Chattanooga took more than 31,000 bike share trips and burned a whopping 3.4 million calories.
That's important said Phill Pugliese, the bicycle coordinator for Outdoor Chattanooga, which runs the bike share. "We are in what is often termed the Stroke Belt," he said in a recent interview. "While Chattanooga's recognized as an outdoor adventure city...we have high rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity."
Biking can be a tough sale with folks who were raised to think that after age 16 you stow the Shwinn and get your real wheels, but Phil says even they are coming around. "We’ve had people who haven’t been on a bike… in 20 plus years, and they get out, and are now riding their bike out to lunch."
It helps that the price is right. With an ongoing membership or a $5 daily fee, using the bikes is free—just as long as you check into a kiosk every hour, and 24/7 access means you can pedal whenever you want, morning, noon, or night.
So what do you think—should we all meet up in Chattanooga and show off our pedal power? And what if you had bike share where you live? How would you use it?