Downtown BlueBikes program rolls into Rocket City

single-meta-cal March 7, 2017

A leisurely, convenient way to explore and enjoy the downtown Huntsville area is literally rolling out this week.

Downtown BlueBikes, a bike-sharing program operated by Zagster and presented by BlueCross BlueShield, will enable residents and visitors alike to see the city from a different perspective or simply have an easy method of transportation from one point to the next.

“Bike share fits into several key buckets,” says Chad Emerson, CEO of Downtown Huntsville, Inc., which has initiated the BlueBikes program. “One, it leads to a healthier population because biking is a good, low-impact exercise. Two, it leads to increased tourism. It’s a new way to explore. And last, it leads to economic development. Amenities like this are things employers are increasingly looking at as they consider new areas.”

The program is administered by Zagster, and it is the first Zagster affiliated program in the state of Alabama. It has some 145 programs in place across the country.

“It’s a great amenity not only for downtown but it’s a pilot for other places around the city that are bikeable,” says Dennis Madsen, Director of Long Range Planning for the City of Huntsville.

BlueBike riders may download the Zagster app to join as members or for single use of a bicycle. The charge is $3 per hour, or up to $24 per ride. Monthly ($15) and annual ($50) memberships are also available, with no charge for the first hour of a ride.

Through May 6, the annual membership is at half-price.

“It’s one of the most technologically advanced programs in the country,” says Emerson, who notes that Huntsville is one of the few cities to use the method where the bicycle, not the station, carries the technology.

It’s a simple process for riders. Says Emerson, “If you can call for a ride on Uber, you can rent a bike from Zagster.”

“The neat aspect of this particular company is that it uses a handheld app, and that technological element should have appeal to people in Huntsville, being able to rent a bike on the phone,” Madsen says.

The bicycles are seven-speed “Cruiser” style bikes with adjustable seat heights, front and rear fenders to minimize dirt or mud being flung onto the rider and front and rear lights for safety. Helmets are recommended but not mandatory, and are not included in the rental.

The BlueBikes will be available at six different stations this week, with two more to come online in May. Each station will be equipped with five bikes:

  • Five Points, at the public park where Pratt, Holmes and California converge
  • Washington and Clinton Streets
  • 200 Westside Square 200, across from the courthouse above the entrance to Big Spring Park East
  • Big Spring East, at the Downtown YMCA
  • Twickenham Square, across from the entrance to Publix
  • Butler Green, on the south side of the park at Campus No. 805

In May, a location at Big Spring Park West, on Williams Street across from the new City Centre project, and another at The Avenue, at Holmes and Jefferson, will be in place.

The City of Huntsville is a partner in BlueBikes with its in-kind support, providing the right-of-ways for the bike stations. There are a number of other corporate partners that sponsor individual stations. Toyota Motor Manufacturing sponsors three stations, while Alabama Colon & Gastro, Huntsville Committee of 100, Crestwood Hospital, Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau and SportsMed are other supporters.

“Our bike culture is growing at rapid pace, with everything from Thursday Night Bikes at Greene Street Market to Bikes and Brews to the affinity groups who do mountain biking and other trips,” Emerson says. “We’re a real outdoor-inclined city and many of those people live, work and play in downtown.”

WATCH: Dennis Madsen talks Bike Share & Huntsville’s transportation outlook