Bike Sharing Expands In the Windy City

 /  June 20, 2013, 3:46 p.m.


Thursday, April 25, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced its new bike-sharing program, set to launch this June. The bike-sharing program, titled Divvy in honor of the program’s “divide and share” motto, will start off with approximately seventy-five wireless, solar-powered docking stations, each containing around fifteen to nineteen bicycles, located in the Downtown and River North areas. According to the official Divvy website, these locations were chosen as they are the most heavily traveled, leading the City to believe they will see the highest demand. The goal is to expand the program to include four hundred docking stations and four thousand “Chicago Blue” bicycles within a year, serving the city from 63rd Street to Devon Avenue and from Lake Michigan to California Avenue.

The first docking stations will be located near CTA and Metra stops, as well as other frequently visited areas, to serve as a continuation of the city’s public transit program.  A Divvy Twenty-Four-Hour Pass will cost $7 and an Annual Membership will cost $75. Both passes allow the rider unlimited rides lasting up to thirty minutes each, with additional charges resulting if a customer keeps the bicycle for longer than the half hour. Divvy bikes will be available 24/7 to encourage use and allow unlimited access. The Divvy website claims the program will support up to one hundred new jobs.

The City heralds Divvy as a new, integral part of Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, announced just over a year ago. The plan will set up a 645-mile bike path network aimed to fall within a half-mile of every Chicagoan. The City and the mayor seem confident the plan will promote safety for bicyclists and pedestrians and increase the ease of bicycling in Chicago. In a letter published at the beginning of the plan, Mayor Emanuel writes: “Over the next few years, [Chicago] will build more protected bike lanes than any other city in the country, redesign intersections to ensure they are safer for bicyclists, and improve hundreds of miles of residential streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the people that live on them.”

According to the CDOT’s website, the city has been soliciting suggestions for bike-sharing docking stations since late 2012. Suggestions for docking locations can still be made and votes in support of previously suggested locations can still be placed. CDOT’s website notes that the docking stations will be “modular and mobile, and can be moved or expanded in reaction to demand.”

Initial funding for Divvy comes from federal grants aimed at promoting economic development, improving air quality, and reducing traffic congestion, as well as the City’s Tax Increment Financing program. The Divvy website claims the operating costs will be covered by revenue generated from user fees, naming rights, advertising, and corporate partnerships. While the City will own the equipment for the program, Alta Bicycle Share of Portland will be in charge of its operation. Alta currently runs bicycle sharing programs in Boston and Washington D.C. As the largest bike sharing program in the United States, Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, formatted in an extremely similar way to Divvy, has been a huge success.

The image featured in this article was taken by Steven Vance. The original image can be found here

Mara Heneghan


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