State Rep Tries to Dock Block Divvy Stations in Front of Schools

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Jaime Andrade

In a case of thinking locally and acting globally, state rep Jaime Andrade (40th) introduced legislation that would have banned the installation of bike-share stations in front of all Illinois schools, not long after a Divvy station was placed by the school he co-founded.

Last year, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed the Divvy station at the Cardinal Bernadin Early Childhood Center, a Catholic Montessori school located at 1651 West Diversey, in a no parking zone near the building’s Paulina entrance. Andrade, whose district includes parts of the Northwest Side but not the school, describes himself as a founding member of the school’s board in his bio on the Illinois General Assembly’s website.

On May 21, Andrade sponsored HB6239, a bill that would have amended the Illinois Municipal Code with the following language:

No bicycle sharing system may operate a docking station in an area with posted signs that expressly prohibit parking at any time or during certain hours that is adjacent to any elementary or secondary school in any municipality.

The bill also included a provision against local municipalities overriding the ban via home rule.

When I talked to Andrade yesterday, he said he’s a actually a fan of Divvy. “It’s a great, great program,” he said. “I think we should keep expanding bike-share all over the city and the state.” He added that he used to ride a bike in Chicago before a knee injury stopped him, usually gets around by public transportation and carpooling, and his car is a 1985 Chevy Cavalier that probably wouldn’t even survive the trip to the state capital.

Andrade said the bill was intended to address safety issues. “It’s strictly saying that the stations should not be in front of schools in the no-parking zone,” he said. He argued that bike-share stations could be an obstruction in the case of a fire, and that the stations’ advertising placards block the sightlines for children crossing the street.

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The Bernadin Divvy station. Photo: Steven Vance

“Plus, kids will be kids, and they might use the stations as a playground. They might climb a bike and fall off into the street,” Andrade added. It appears the Bernadin station might also pose a minor inconvenience for parents driving up to the steps of the school to pick up their kids. Of course, Divvy stations also makes it easier for school faculty and staff, as well as students over age 16, to commute to their schools.

The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee, which Andrade said means it is essentially dead in the water. “It doesn’t even have to pass as a bill,” he said. “I just wanted to raise awareness about this and make it Chicago policy.”

The Divvy station in front of Bernadin, one of a tiny minority of Chicago’s 300 stations installed by schools, was still in place as of this morning. Local Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd) did not respond to a request for comment, and CDOT spokesman Pete Scales declined to comment on the issue.

However, Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke said Andrade’s attempt to regulate Divvy locations from Springfield was a case of micromanagement. “The state legislature doesn’t need to be refereeing Divvy locations,” he said. “Leave that to the residents, the aldermen, and the City Council.”

  • Rep. Andrade cannot claim to be a supporter of Divvy and express hope for its continued expansion, and at the same time make an argument that a Divvy station is a hazard because it may block fire equipment. (Let’s leave aside the fact that I think firefighters are resourceful enough not to let plastic posts get in the way of water hoses.) In a densely populated city, nearly any station placed on any street or sidewalk is going to be in the vicinity of building. If Rep. Andrade uses the argument that this station is a fire hazard to this school, he’s unwittingly encouraging citizens and other government leaders to fear that any station placed near their condo buildings or gym or grocery store or whatever is similarly placing them in danger, although it’s not. Unless Rep. Andrade is going to start advocating that Divvy stations are only appropriate next to abandoned lots with nothing that can catch fire, he should reconsider this entire argument.

    As for blocking sight lines for people crossing the street, the one depicted is certainly not next to a marked crosswalk which would be problematic. Note that the upright portion of the station does have advertising on one side, but its primary purpose is to provide a map of nearby stations and places of interest, as well as information about the system. It also holds up the solar panel that makes the system more sustainable.

  • Perhaps his first call should have been to CDOT to ask about their strategy for placing docks before introducing this measure? Or perhaps a call to the Chicago Fire Department to discuss their operational approach to servicing schools? I don’t know anything about Rep. Andrade so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he is a good public servant but, he seems to be concern trolling on this one.

    If he wants to make school fire safety a hallmark issue of his, good for him. I’d recommend he push for all schools statewide to install fire sprinkler systems and upgrade their egress door hardware. Those items would have an infinitely larger impact on the safety of students than any relocation of a Divvy dock could possibly have.

  • I think children are more at risk from the constant car traffic during pickup and dropoff times, and their idling vehicles emitting pollutants, than on any object in the public way. Is the nearest fire hydrant covered in and surrounded by rubber cushions?

  • And here I was thinking that in the suburbs, where we cut busing kids to school even if they live a mile away, bike share would work better than “make ’em walk in the -10 degree cold”.

    I’ve also considered, with officials seemingly constantly concerned about fire truck access, perhaps the best way to go about this would be to ban on-street parking?

  • Fred

    My pure guess on the root of this issue is that parents like to use that space as a loading zone at the beginning and end of the day so they are annoyed that they are no longer able to do so.

    Its kinda like the speed/red light camera arguments. The city can’t come out and directly say they are revenue generators, so they came up with a weak ‘in the name of safety!’ reasoning for them. The school parents can’t come out and say they want their de-facto loading zone back, so they came up with a weak ‘in the name of safety!’ reasoning against it.

    It just sucks that their selfish baby-with-the-bathwater solution could have wide ranging consequences.

  • Kevin Irvine

    Thanks for reporting on this. To your list of beneficiaries, I would add parents. I frequently use a Divvy bike after dropping my 2nd-grader off at her school. I’d love to have a Divvy station right there, instead of a couple blocks away.

  • Sure thing. Interesting, I hadn’t thought of parents using Divvy that way.

  • minvervah

    I can see some of the merit in this, but why not work to encourage more Divvy sites in his district (which has very few, and none in populous Albany Park at all) and a strong Divvy/CDOT/resident connection? Weird way to spend your legislative time.

  • Brad Kort

    Example of the typical Democratic party approach. Use the heavy hand of government to regulate even trivial things. Or, in this case, to promote personal wishes. They should learn about the law of unintended consequences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unintended_consequences

  • JacobEPeters

    Except that penalizing people for breaking the law does cause less law breaking, therefore making streets actually safer, so it is actually a quite strong argument.

  • Jin Nam

    1. One rep’s proposal = “democratic party approach”…?

    2. You up voted your own comment…?
    3. You reference wiki as a source…?

  • Jin Nam

    There are effective ways to raise awareness for safety than to waste what little time legislators actually spend legislating in Springfield. “It doesn’t even have to pass as a bill.” Why introduce it at all then?

  • Brad Kort

    1. No, it’s quite obvious (to most people) that Dems think regulation and big government is the solution.
    2. Yes. I liked my comment in more ways than 1.
    3. Yes. Wikipedia reflects a consensus opinion on most topics. It’s the least biased resource in general.

    Oh, and I’m going to Vote Up my answer here too. I hope that you find that annoying.

    Maybe we should pass a law outlawing voting in favor of your self, in any way?

  • Jin Nam

    Just questions, sir. Thank you for the reply.

  • Cutting busing raises the percentage of parents who drive their kids, in Chicago, and parents jockeying to drop off their kid and move on with the rest of their day is an increasing hazard to walkers and kids (even those who just got out of a car) near schools. Especially if the parent has another kid in the car that has to go to a different school.

    Besides, schoolkids are not allowed to use Divvy: it’s 18+ only.

  • FG

    The photo above does seem to indicate a visual blockage and lack of striping around the divvy kiosk (and to me, seems poorly designed for cyclists as well). The other problem is the lack of curbs around the kiosk which prevents street sweeping (note debris/little just beyond it) – I’m sure divvy with their stellar maintenance will sweep that right up (they didn’t touch the snow at the location adjacent to my train station all winter, so I don’t have a high opinion of divvy kiosks, frankly, in addition to the blight of advertising signage).

  • Aha! Thanks. Still doesn’t help gradeschoolers any. :->

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