A bicycle share service recently began offering rides at two stations in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area bordering Buckhead and Sandy Springs.

And in November, the bike rental service, organized by Cobb County’s Cumberland Community Improvement District, will open a station at the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park and Battery complex.

Park visitors Elizabeth Uhles and Daniel Johnson rent a ride from the Zagster bicycle share station Oct. 23 at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s Cochran Shoals in Cobb County, just across the river from Sandy Springs. (Phil Mosier)

It’s all part of a master plan for alternative transportation and trails throughout the Cumberland area, in a burgeoning trend in local cities as well.

“The Cumberland area presents the opportunity to create a major bike hub,” says Cumberland CID Director of Operations Kyethea Clark, “with access to regional destinations such as The Battery Atlanta/SunTrust Park, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area…, CobbLinc Transfer Station and many other places of interest.”

The bike share service, operated by the private company Zagster, opened stations in August at the national park’s Paces Mill/Palisades area off Northside Parkway, and the Cochran Shoals trailhead off Interstate North Parkway.

Bicycles in the Zagster bike share station at Cochran Shoals. (Phil Mosier)

“The idea is that you can ride from one unit to the other,” said Bill Cox, the National Park Service’s superintendent at Chattahoochee River park system.

Each station currently includes five bikes, painted white with the CID logo and equipped with a basket. The bikes are rented through a smartphone app or text messaging, which requires an account registration and a payment method. The first hour of riding is free, with each additional hour costing $2, up to a maximum of $16.

Bike share programs are an increasingly popular form of alternative transportation nationwide and in the metro area. Atlanta launched its “Relay” bike share system last year, which includes some stations around Buckhead. Private bike shares operate in such Perimeter Center office tower complexes as Sandy Springs’ Concourse Center and Brookhaven’s Perimeter Summit.

Massachusetts-based Zagster operates more than 200 bike share systems in 35 states, including in Smyrna, Alpharetta and Kennesaw. In 2016, Zagster pitched its system to the city of Sandy Springs, which eventually decided its streets were not yet set up to be safe and appealing for bike-riding services.

Uhles uses an app to unlock a Zagster bike in the park. (Phil Mosier)

But that infrastructure is changing rapidly, especially as new multiuse trails are being planned and built in Buckhead and Perimeter cities. Atlanta and Sandy Springs both have land-use plans proposing trails, footbridges and other improved connections to the Chattahoochee River and its national park.

The Cumberland CID, a self-taxing business district, has similar ideas. The bike share is tied to its participation in the “Cumberland Trails.” Clark calls it an “emerging system of existing and planned regional connecting trails.” They include the Chattahoochee River Trail as well as the Bob Callan/Rottenwood Creek, Silver Comet Connector and Mountain to River trails.

The bike share program is an outgrowth of the CID’s 2016 Bicycle Connectivity Implementation Plan, which recommended multiuse trail improvements at Palisades and adding a path or two-way bicycle track to Cobb’s section of Interstate North Parkway.

Uhles starts her ride on the rented bike. (Phil Mosier)

Last year, the CID board approved $63,000 for the launch of seven Zagster bike share stations, Clark said, and the Draft Cumberland Bike Share Expansion Study recommends 12 more. The national park stations were the first in the system.

“While additional locations have not been officially approved as of yet, the Cumberland CID is looking to add more Zagster bike share stations to promote a live/work/play community,” Clark said.

The CID has an interactive map of its area that residents can use to suggest future bike share stations. It’s available at cbp.altaprojects.net. For more information about the Cumberland-area Zagster bike share program, see bike.zagster.com/cumberland.

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.