The “Divvy for Everyone” Bike-Share Equity Program Has Been Wildly Popular

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Riding Divvy on the Lakefront. Photo: John Greenfield

On July 7, the city launched the Divvy for Everyone (D4E) initiative, which offers $5 bike-share memberships to low-income residents, and waives the usual credit card requirement. The goal was to sign up 750 people within the first 12 months, according to assistant transportation commissioner Sean Wiedel. However, within the first two months, over 800 people have joined. “We’ve blown it out of the water,” he said.

Moreover, the city is just getting started promoting D4E to residents, and there’s no limit to how many people can sign up, Wiedel said. The city has contracted the equity-focused bike group Slow Roll Chicago to do citywide outreach, and is retaining the transportation demand management program Go Bronzeville to do focused outreach in that neighborhood. Contracting issues that delayed the launch of those efforts have been resolved and the two organizations will start the work soon, according to Wiedel.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has developed brochures with general info about the Divvy system, as well as the specifics of the program for low-income Chicagoans, Wiedel said. “We would never want to presuppose that people are eligible for D4E – that would be insulting.”

Slow Roll members will be handing out the brochures on their regularly scheduled rides, and CDOT is collaborating with them on special events, such as a ride leaving from Kennedy-King College in Englewood on Sunday, September 13. Bronzeville Bikes will be doing similar outreach within that community.

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A Divvy station by Kennedy-King College in Englewood. Photo: John Greenfield

The $5 D4E membership charge – a deep discount from the usual $75 fee – is made possible by a $75,000 grant to the city of Chicago from the Better Bike Share Partnership, plus matching funds from Divvy sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. Waiving the credit card requirement makes the program accessible to unbanked individuals; the program funding will help cover the replacement costs for any lost or stolen cycles.

The program is available to Chicagoans with a maximum combined household income of 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four with an income of under $72,750 would be eligible.

To join, applicants must show up in person at one of five Financial Opportunity Centers operated by the Local Initiatives Support Coalition in Englewood, Bronzeville, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, and Ravenswood, and provide proof of income and residency. After paying the $5 charge, they’re given an activated Divvy key and will be immediately able to check out a bike.

After the first year, D4E members will have to pay the full annual fee, but the city is looking into strategies to make it easier for low-income people to budget accordingly if they choose to renew their memberships. These include payment plans, cash payment options, and a financial literacy program offered by LISC, where participants learn strategies for saving money and building credit.

“”We’re hoping that people who sign up at the $5 rate will see the value of the system and will become interested in joining as full members next year,” Wiedel said. More details about the Divvy for Everyone program, including income requirements and the sign-up locations, are available here.

  • Three Green Kashira

    this is great to see! on a similar topic – are there any numbers on the ridership from the first “divvy for free” day last saturday?

  • Divvy tweeted that there were over 18K rides taken that day using (presumably free) 24-hour passes. On a typical summer Saturday, there are 16-18K rides using both day passes and annual memberships, so that must represent a significant uptick in 24-hour pass use.

  • Rampage

    If you dont need a credit card what’s to stop you from going over the time limit, damaging, or stealing the bike?

  • In the event that a member racks up excessive overtime, access to the system is cut off. The program funding will help cover the replacement costs for any lost or stolen cycles. Cities like Boston and Philadelphia, which have options for joining bike-share without a credit card, have seen very little loss of bikes, according to the Better Bike Share Partnership.

  • SamKl

    Wait,

  • SamKl

    Oops. Let’s try that again.

    Wait, the goal was to sign up just 750 people over 12 whole months?! And they’ve “blown it out of the water” with 800 people in 2 months?? In a city of nearly 3 million people! How pathetic.

    Why haven’t more people signed up? Was it publicized in low income communities?

    I’m a strong supporter of these programs, but something clearly went wrong with the execution.

  • Pat

    “Moreover, the city is just getting started promoting D4E to residents, and there’s no limit to how many people can sign up, Wiedel said. The city has contracted the equity-focused bike group Slow Roll Chicago to do citywide outreach, and is retaining the transportation demand management program Go Bronzeville to do focused outreach in that neighborhood. Contracting issues that delayed the launch of those efforts have been resolved and the two organizations will start the work soon, according to Wiedel.”

  • Kevin M

    What would be a more appropriate 12-month target, in your (presumably expert) opinion?

    I assume you know something about the service area of Divvy, exactly how many of Chicago’s 2.7M people are eligible under the guidelines, how many of those who are eligible live in the service area, and the general difficulty of launching similar access programs nationwide, etc.

  • dr

    Thanks for the update! Was very curious how this program was going, and am really glad to hear its going well.

    While I suspect they won’t, and for obvious reasons, I sure hope they breakout these memberships in the public data on rides.

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