JACKSONVILLE — Residents and visitors to Calhoun County now have access to the state’s first regional bikeshare system as of Friday.
Community stakeholders and representatives from VeoRide celebrated the launch of the company’s app in Anniston, Jacksonville and Oxford during a Friday press conference at the Historic Jacksonville Train Depot.
“No one else has come together on this level to create a bikeshare system in our state,” said Lindsey Gray, the CEO of the mobility consulting firm Bantam Strategy Group. “It’s something we’re seeing more and more across the country, the regional bikeshare systems, but they’re joining a handful that are doing it successfully.”
Gray said she, the mayors of all three cities and Jacksonville State University President John Beehler worked to bring VeoRide to their communities for nearly two and a half years.
Beehler and the mayors — Anniston’s Jack Draper, Jacksonville’s Johnny Smith and Alton Craft of Oxford — each credited their partnership for the successful launch of the system.
“Our region is really known for ecotourism, and adding active transportation to this is important for this regionally,” Draper said. “I don’t think we can underscore the importance of us all working together for a common goal for active transportation.”
VeoRide operations manager Carl Stream said anyone can access the bikes by downloading the VeoRide App on a smartphone and creating an account. Renting a bike can cost from 50 cents for 15 minutes to $99.99 annually.
Stream said bikes are unlocked by using a code and scanning it with the phone’s camera. Stream said all bikes are tracked through a GPS system, which helps users find bikes in their area.
“On the app, you can actually see where all of the bikes are. They’re clustered on the app, so you kind of get an idea of where each bike is at,” Stream said. “You can ‘call’ a bike, where it will make a noise as you’re walking up to it.”
Currently, 180 bikes are available at locations with more foot traffic, including downtown Anniston, downtown Jacksonville, the Jacksonville State University campus, and local trailheads to the Chief Ladiga Trail and Choccolocco Park in Oxford.
While many bikeshare companies focus on one specific city or college campus, Stream said VeoRide stands out because the wide area it covers allows its users to focus on biking for health or recreation.
“It’s really promoting health and casual bike riding, rather than just a mobility system where people are riding in between places and utilizing short distances to get to classes or get to work,” Stream said.
Prior to the app’s opening in Calhoun County, VeoRide offered its service in communities and college campuses in several states across the country.
Gray said the mayors of Anniston and Oxford reached out to her within weeks of each other after they heard about Zyp BikeShare, which she worked to start in Birmingham in 2015. At first, Gray said, neither mayor knew that the other was looking into bringing bike-sharing to their cities.
Both agreed when Gray suggested a collaboration, and invited the city of Jacksonville and JSU to join.
When looking for bikeshare providers, Gray said, the cities went through a “competitive process” to identify the one that would best suit the area’s needs.
“VeoRide seemed to be a really good fit for what the communities were trying to achieve, with the access to the trail and the flexibility of the dockless system and providing the ultimate convenience for the users,” Gray said. “When they came down, they hit all the marks.”
Additionally, Gray said, VeoRide was able to open at no cost to the cities and JSU.
“That was really big and exciting for everybody to realize that they could have this and not take from their budgets,” Gray said.
Stream thanked Gray as well as the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, which provided the funding to launch the project through Stringfellow Health Fund grants.
In addition to promoting good health, Gray said, VeoRide offers people more transportation options at affordable rates for those who don’t own vehicles.
“This is important for the region for accessibility,” Gray said. “It checks a lot of boxes.”