The delay of Chattanooga's new Bike Share Program that will provide 300 public bikes for hourly rentals throughout the greater downtown area has frustrated many who have been looking forward to the system's launch since April.
Software issues have been named as the cause for the ongoing delay in this city, as well as in New York City, where the same bike network developed by Alta Bike Share will most likely be installed this year.
What happens with the system in Chattanooga will have a direct impact on the Big Apple, according to Chattanooga's bike coordinator, Philip Pugliese.
"Bike Chattanooga is the development platform for what will ultimately be in New York City," Pugliese said.
The city of Chattanooga and Outdoor Chattanooga, in partnership with CARTA, was awarded a $2 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program to establish a network of 30 public bike share stations.
Pugliese admits that announcing a spring launch was probably ambitious, but he and others had higher expectations that some of the development would move faster than it did.
The problem isn't with the 300 bikes, which are now in storage, or the 30 docking stations that have already been installed around the city. Rather, it is the moving parts behind the software that processes user transactions and communicates properly with other components in the system.
Credit cards are used to unlock a bike for a 24-hour or hourly rental, and the developers could not guarantee that would be a smooth process with the software under development.
Similar to apps on a smartphone, constant and frequent software updates are just a part of being the first to use the latest technologies.
Pugliese said that is part of the exciting but challenging part of being on the frontline of a next-generation system.
"It's not that we knew we had a finished product, and all of a sudden, something went wrong. Our supplier was building a new product, and we needed to put that product into the real world and test it," he said.
But sometimes what works well in the controlled lab environment gets glitchy in real life.
Some 30 individuals who registered for annual memberships of Chattanooga's Bike Share helped officials this spring during the "real world" test period when the issues surfaced.
This weekend, the final stage of hardware tests will continue, and Pugliese said the system will be launched very soon.
Although he has been in the position to say that before, he insists this time is different.
"When I say soon, I do mean very soon, that is, before fall, for sure. We'll leave it at that," he said.