Why isn’t Savannah’s bike share program more popular with local residents?

From Marcus Howard today at SavannahNow, CAT bike share program not too popular with Savannah residents:

Since launching three months ago, Chatham Area Transit’s bike share program has sold 629 user passes, according to newly released data from the transit authority.

But the program, which provides short-term bike rentals to locals and tourists at two stations, is considered by CAT staff to be too small and in need of more annual members and greater connectivity.

In the generally good weather since mid-March, during prime tourist season here in Savannah, 14 bikes per day on average have been checked out. The entire piece in the SMN is well worth a read.

A few thoughts:

I’d actually say that 629 user passes is a pretty good number, but I’m left wondering how many locals essentially bought symbolic passes in the early days of the program as a show of support.

I was skeptical early on that the initial phase of CAT Bike was designed in ways that would attract “resident commuters.” The presence of just two stations — one at the transit center on the west side of MLK off Oglethorpe and another in Ellis Square — obviously limits the pool of potential riders. And, as I noted back in January, even as a regular bike rider around downtown, I don’t feel comfortable trying to cross MLK. The streets just aren’t designed appropriately to make cyclists feel safe.

Also, the two stations are really quite close together. If I were taking the bus into downtown and ultimately headed toward the City Market area, I’d just enjoy the free 10-minute walk rather than rent a bike.

And why would a local in the City Market area want to rent a bike and then return it to the exact same spot? The most obvious destinations — like River Street and Broughton Street — are within easy walking distance, and there aren’t stations in those places to return bikes. If there were other stations a little farther away, say in Forsyth Park or out in Habersham Village, we might actually see commuters and local shoppers availing themselves of the service. (Of course, additional stations will require additional public investment.)

Also, it’s obviously worth noting that the vast majority of those of us who advocate bicycling downtown already have our own bikes.

I’m glad that CAT has made this effort and hope that we’ll continue to explore ways to make the service work. My thoughts here are shared by others in an interesting Twitter discussion thread prompted by the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.