With Atlanta’s Relay Bike Share service recently rolling out, Reporter Newspapers took a test drive of the bicycle rental service. While the bikes gave a nice ride, the lack of bike lanes on local streets could make using them a challenge.
Bike share systems have recently been proposed in Sandy Springs and some private systems are operating in Perimeter Center. But Atlanta is the first local city to launch a full public system.
Buckhead is the latest neighborhood in Atlanta to join the city’s bicycle share station system, which allows users to rent a bike for a fee from an automated kiosk or with a smartphone app.
Three stations, or “hubs,” were installed in July and can be found across the street from the Lenox MARTA Station at East Paces Ferry and Lenox roads; at Tower Place, at the intersection of Lenox and Piedmont roads; and in Piedmont Center, which is on the opposite side of Lenox Road from Tower Place.
None of the bikes at the Lenox MARTA Station were out for use on a recent Sunday, but on some weekdays all the Tower Place bikes are being used. Other experienced cyclists were riding their own bikes were in the area.
The test drive started at the Relay hub at the Lenox MARTA Station, followed by a quick ride around the block bounded by Lenox Road, East Paces Ferry Road, Oak Valley Road and Wright Avenue. None of those streets in that area have bike lanes, making for a challenging ride, and city code bars bike-riding on the sidewalks.
For a first-time user, getting a Relay bike takes about five minutes.
Instead of renting from a kiosk and swiping a credit card, riders type in an account number and PIN on a small display on the rear of the bike powered by a solar panel. But first, they must download the Social Bicycles app or visit the Relay Bike Share website at relaybikeshare.com to create an account and enter payment information.
If a rider isn’t a monthly or yearly subscriber, he or she must buy a 30-minute ride for $3.50 manually on the app or website before each ride and before entering the account number on the bike’s display.
A monthly membership costs $15 and allots members 90 minutes of daily ride time. An annual membership costs $10 a month and a full year has to be paid up front. Individual rides are $3.50 for 30 minutes and 15 cents for each minute after.
Monthly or yearly subscribers can tap a member card on the same display, similar to tapping a MARTA Breeze card at the transit gates.
After paying for a ride online, riders activate the display and follow the prompts to enter the account number and PIN. Then, riders pull out the metal U-shaped lock and place it in the holes on the side of the bike. The display on the back keeps tabs on the duration, distance and cost of the ride.
Riders may return a bike to any Relay Bike Share rack for free. Bikes also may be returned to any normal public bike rack in the Relay system’s area for a fee of $2. It will cost a rider $20 to leave a bike at a public bike rack outside of Relay’s system area, which can be seen on an online map.
Riders can also pick up a bike left at a public bike rack and receive a few dollars in credit toward future rides, referred to by Relay as a “bounty.”
Bikes can also be reserved online or on the app, but will be released for use by other riders if not claimed within 10 minutes.
Although Relay recommends wearing helmets, there are none to rent at the stations. The bikes have lights on the front and back and a handlebar bell to ring.