Moving to the Suburbs: Bike Share Set to Redefine Mobility in Thousands of Smaller Communities

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Bike share programs in smaller communities are spreading and have as much impact as major metropolitan programs, despite their smaller sizes.

Bike share isn’t just for the big city anymore. Hot on the heels of Zagster’s launch in Smyrna, GA this summer, we launched a new program this past week at the Town Center Community Improvement District in Kennesaw, GA.

The new program has 20 bikes spread over 3 stations and hopes to make hundreds of residents, students and visitors in the Kennesaw, GA area into regular bike riders.

And despite it’s smaller size next to massive metropolitan programs such as NYC's CitiBike or Chicago's Divvy, the bike share program in Town Center represents a fundamental shift in American mobility.

In suburban and exurban communities, communal access to a bike represents the first true alternative to the car since Americans retired the horse and buggy.

The first generation of bike sharing systems were geared toward solving the challenges of large urban environments, where the high cost of startup and operations could be amortized over the course of millions of rides by hundreds of thousands of users.

This paradigm all but shut out any other community than a large city from experiencing the benefits of bike sharing. But more than 80% of urban areas in the United States are smaller towns, and these towns are more than just homes for urban workers - they are independent and vibrant communities. Smaller governments have more flexibility for experimentation in public policy and land use planning. These towns are test beds for innovative ideas that larger municipalities are reluctant or slow to take on.

Cities and towns across America have made significant investments in bike trails in recent years. Not only does it make good sense from a community perspective – it’s good for business. According to a report from the Advocacy Advance:

“Trails increase the values of nearby properties – a statistical analysis of housing values in Marion County, Indiana found that greenway trails and conservation corridors in the county raised property values in excess of $140 million. Within 1/2 mile of the Monon Trail, the flagship of Marion County's greenway trail system, property values were 11 percent higher.

Zagster launches bike sharing in Town Center CID
Zagster launches bike sharing in Town Center CID

Trails attract business activity as multi-use (transportation, recreation, destination) facilities – a survey of businesses along the Great Allegheny Passage found that between $30-40 million in annual business revenue was attributed to trail users.

Trails increase local tax revenues – often more than paying for their own maintenance. For example a study of Maryland’s Northern Central Rail Trail found that the state received $303,000/year in trail-related tax income.”

“Great communities provide commuters, residents and visitors with transportation options, along with new and enriching things to do,” states Tracy Rathbone, executive director of the Town Center Community Improvement District. “The Zagster bike share system offers everyone who spends time in this area a fun and easy way to get to their favorite destinations. It’s an exciting chance to connect with our vibrant community, getting people out of the car and out of an everyday routine. We want to help create memorable experiences here, along with new, healthy habits!”

The end result of these efforts is that more people are getting back on a bike and enjoying the freedom that comes from pedal power.  It’s just another example of how new technologies and new business models are unlocking new, healthy and sustainable forms of mobility and recreation in cities around the world.

As we congratulate the Town Center Community Improvement District, we look forward to many more communities joining their ranks in providing bike share, not just as an amenity, but as a means to grow business, improve access and make biking a viable option for Americans living in all sizes of urban communities across the country.

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Want to provide bike sharing in your community?

Learn about how Zagster allows communities to make biking a part of their transportation system by increasing the number of cyclists, giving people access to bikes and filling gaps between destinations and regional transit.