Jackson: Chicago Launching Bike-Sharing Program

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Jackson IconEditor's note: The bike-sharing program launch has been delayed by two weeks and is now scheduled for a June 28 start. This story has been edited to reflect that change.

By Emilee Ziesmer and Mary Ellen Shoup
The Red Line Project

Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chicagoans and tourists will have a new way of getting around town starting June 28.

Chicago will launch its first bike-sharing program with hundreds of “Chicago blue” painted bicycles available for rental all over the city. The goal is to reduce traffic congestion during peak commuting hours and is aimed at CTA and Metra commuters as well as tourists looking for a fast and inexpensive transportation alternative.

Divvy, the company running the bike-share program, will cost $22 million a year to operate, which is expected to pay for itself from user fees and sponsorship revenue, city officials say. The city will launch 75 stations with 750 bikes in June and eventually expand to offer over 4,000 bikes available at 400 stations by summer 2014.

“Bike-sharing is another large step we’re taking to make Chicago the best big city in America for cycling,” Mayor Emanuel said in a statement. “We are improving our bicycling infrastructure to create the quality of life that will attract businesses and families to Chicago. Divvy bikes will provide Chicagoans and visitors with more options for getting around our neighborhoods.”

Most of the docking stations will be near Union Station, the Ogilvie Transportation Center, and major CTA rail stations. Users have the option of paying a $75 for a year-long membership or pay $7 for a 24-hour pass that allows for unlimited trips of up to 30 minutes each. After the 30 minutes Divvy will charge an hourly rate for trips lasting over the 30 allotted minutes. Annual members can register online at DivvyBikes.com and receive a personal key to unlock bikes at any station around the city.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is currently in the process of siting the 400 stations but has released the locations of all 75 stations available in June. Divvy and CDOT lists of potential locations that have been submitted by the aldermen from multiple wards and CDOT is finalizing where the remaining stations will be located. Most of the wireless, solar-powered stations will have 15-19 docks, with spaces left open for returning bikes.

The program, which Mayor Emanuel hopes to build into the nation's largest, has undergone several delays in the past two years of planning. The latest -- bumping the program back from Bike to Work Day on June 14 to the new June 28 launch, was made to accommodate system glitches and logistics.

Anton Heindel, who has participated in multiple Critical Mass bike rides, said he believes this is the right move for Chicago but thinks that serious bikers won’t be the ones renting from Divvy.

“I think it’s a long time coming. In the city with parking being so expensive and traffic with congestion I think it’s great to have a mode of transportation you can hop on and drive around and is user friendly,” Heindel said.

Minku Sharma, who runs his own pedicab business called Vegan Pedicab also said the bike-sharing program will be a positive move for the city.

“My livelihood revolves around biking. I think the more people that are on bikes, it means less people in cars even taxis. So that makes the streets safer for me to ride my bike,” Sharma said.

Sharma said he thinks the program is a great option for many different people including himself.

“I have a lot of friends who come in from out of town all the time and I only have so many spare bikes in my garage. So it’s a perfect way for my out of town friends, or even my friends in Chicago who don’t have bikes,” Sharma said.

Sharma is not concerned with what this might mean for his Vegan Pedicab.

“If someone’s already riding, they’re not going to take a pedicab ride,” Sharma said.

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