Savannah’s new bike share program CAT Bike starts Friday; NYT takes note

Savannah’s new bike share program CAT Bike, an initiative of Chatham Area Transit, has gotten a little press from the New York Times’ In Transit blog: Savannah Starts a Bike Program.

Ironically, the program begins on Friday — among the coldest days we’ve had in this surprisingly cold winter.

From the piece:

For now, adult residents and visitors (or those 16 and older, with a parent or guardian), can sign up for a 24-hour, seven-day or annual membership, either online or at one of the two stations. Each membership, $5, $20 and $60 respectively, allows for a certain amount of usage time, with an additional $2 charge for every half hour over that allotted.

Although created primarily for the use of resident commuters, visitors could also benefit from the program, using the bikes to navigate Savannah’s tiny downtown streets instead of having to rent, drive or park a car.

I’m not really sure that the program is of primary interest to “resident commuters”, although I know a number of downtown workers who have already or will soon buy the relatively inexpensive (maybe too inexpensive) annual memberships for $60. Check out Kevin Klinkenberg’s post about the low price on his New Urbanism blog.

CAT Bike will launch with only two locations — Ellis Square and Rivers Exchange. But keep in mind that Rivers Exchange is not on River Street — it’s at the Joe Murray Rivers, Jr. Intermodal Transit Center on Oglethorpe Avenue. In theory, a commuter taking the bus could have a $60 annual membership and take a bike every day to and from Ellis Square and the transit center.

But, as I have noted ad nauseum, that’s a dicy area to ride a bike. I ride my bike all over downtown, but I hate trying to cross MLK. The traffic patterns are threatening and unfriendly in multiple ways. If I were working in the Ellis Square area and taking the bus into town every day, I’d simply enjoy the 10 minute walk each way.

For those who work near Ellis Square and need to run quick errands — delivering packages, picking up lunch for the office, etc. — that station might prove really convenient. Some tourists, too, will no doubt be curious about the system and anxious to get a little farther south into the Historic District that the tourist-oriented area around City Market.

I should note, however, that the new CAT Bike station in Ellis Square has replaced a series of bike racks that often had 10 to 20 parked bicycles. As of this writing, I’m not sure if those have simply been moved, but I actually had a little problem recently finding an adequate spot to lock up — and it’s wintertime. The old bike racks in Ellis Square are just around the square from the sharing station. (I don’t know how I couldn’t find them the other night.) See the pic embedded from the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s Instagram account.

But enough with the speculation. The program, however limited, is set to launch on 1/24, and we’ll know a lot more in a few weeks about who is participating in Savannah’s new bike share program and how often they are using the service.