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Huntsville’s cycling community is finding things kicked into a higher gear on two different fronts. 

The Downtown Huntsville BlueBikes program, in which residents and visitors may rent bicycles at various locations, has met with great success in its first four months, already exceeding the national use average. 

And the overall cycling community is being presented the plan for improvements and expansion of a downtown bike plan. 

The City of Huntsville’s Urban Planning Department held a public meeting at U.G. White on August 2 to discuss designs from other communities and how they might be implemented in Huntsville. 

There is a proposed 5K path, called an “on-street greenway” by Downtown Huntsville, Inc. President Chad Emerson, meandering through downtown that could be utilized by cyclists, walkers, joggers and even competitions. 

A key stretch of the path would be the Spragins Connector, reaching from Depot Park to Big Spring Park East. The Downtown Master Plan would have a block of Spragins closed from Clinton Avenue to Big Spring Park and would have mixed-use development on the north side of Clinton. 

The entire path would stretch from Bud Cramer Park on Pratt Avenue, across Meridian Street and past the A.M. Booth Lumberyard. It would continue through Depot Park alongside the Roundhouse to Spragins. The “connector” would continue on to Big Spring Park East, across to Big Spring Park West and end at the Rotary Fountain. 

The magic of an urban greenway, as opposed to the more traditional, recreational greenways, is the abundance of locations for cyclists to stop, to grab a drink or a snack or even shop. 

According to statistics recently provided by Emerson, there should be no shortage of interested cyclists. 

The BlueBikes program was started in March. Operated by Zagster and presented by BlueCross BlueShield, it is a ride-share program that uses “cruiser” bikes that may be rented at different locations across downtown. They include: 

  • 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 atCampus No. 805

The bikes are rented through the Zagster app. A one-hour ride is $3 and an annual membership, with which the first hour’s ride is free each time, is $24. 

“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. 

Zagster has just released its performance report from the first five months of the program. Some 1,640 members have joined and there have been 3,483 trips taken.  Zagster breaks it down to members joined per 1,000 residents, which puts Huntsville at 8.49 members, compared to a national average of 6.16. 

In terms of trips taken, it’s been 81.88 trips per bike, compared to a national average of 34.84. Trips per 1,000 residents is 17.81, compared to the national average of 12.81. 

Forty percent of the riders have been between the ages of 18 and 24, and 67 percent of the riders have been between 18 and 30. 

Emerson said as more data is collected, future BlueBikes stations will be added.