CDOT Will Roll Out “Learn to Ride” Adult Bike Handling Classes This Summer

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An adult bike handling class taught by Dave “Mr Bike” Glowacz for the Active Transportation Alliance. Photo: Active Trans

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The city’s Divvy for Everyone (D4E) equity program, which offers one-time $5 annual memberships to low-income Chicagoans, is a great opportunity for residents to enjoy the the mobility, health, and economic benefits of bike-share. But the big, blue bikes don’t do you much good if you don’t know how to ride or don’t feel safe navigating city streets on two wheels.

A new initiative from the Chicago Department of Transportation called “Learn to Ride” will address that problem. CDOT’s Bicycling Ambassadors outreach team will teach one-time, one-to-two-hour bike handling classes to adults every weekday for six weeks this summer in two locations on the South and West Sides. The schedule and the locations, which will be parking lots, will be announced in the near future, CDOT bike and pedestrian safety and education manager Charlie Short said yesterday at a meeting of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council.

Divvy bikes, which are one-size-fits-all, slow, and easy to ride, plus helmets will be provided as loaners to class participants. In the future, the department may offer free helmets to class attendees, Short said.

“Something that we’ve heard from the folks that are [issuing the D4E memberships] is that people are curious about Divvy, and it’s certainly an appealing thing,” Short said. Over 1,300 people have signed up for the discounted memberships. “But there are folks who haven’t ridden a bike since they were a little kid, or they have a fear of riding. We want to make sure we are providing every level of service.”

There will space for 250 people to take the classes during the six-week period. “We’re not going to educate a whole lot of people, but there will be a 1:2 teacher-to-student ratio, so if you show up you will really get a hands-on-education for each class,” Short said.

If the initiative is successful, more classes may be added this year, or the program may be expanded next year, Short said. “It’s a pretty cool thing,” he said. “It’s something we’ve never done, but we know there’s a desire for it.”

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Chicago’s Bicycling Ambassadors with Alderman Walter Burnett. Charlie Short is on the far right in an ambassadors T-shirt. Photo: John Greenfield

While the Active Transportation Alliance offered City Cycling classes for adults last year based on curriculum developed by the League of American Bicyclists, Short noted that most of those who took part were North or Northwest Side residents. “So we wanted to offer something through Divvy for Everyone that was on the South and West sides,” he said. Go Bronzeville, an organization that promotes sustainable transportation on the Near South Side will help out with promoting the program, Short added.

In other biking news, at the MBAC meeting assistant CDOT commissioner Sean Wiedel announced that 7.5 million trips have been taken on Divvy so far, and over 34,000 people have signed up for annual memberships. After Divvy add 85 more stations on the South, Southwest, West, Northwest, and Far North sides of the city this summer, as well as 10 stations in Evanston and 13 in Oak Park, the system will cover 37 wards, with 38 percent of stations within one block of transit stops.

Wiedel added that ten Divvy stations, in locations where almost 100 percent of the users are annual members, will get “smart panels” to collect ridership info instead of kiosks with touch screens and credit card slots. This includes four Loop stations, two on the West Side, two on the South Side, and two on the North Side. At these stations you will either need to use a membership key to check out a bike, or use the Transit App to sign up for a 24-hour pass and/or get a ride code. While this may cause a minor inconvenience for those without membership keys or smart phones, the upside is that these kiosk-less stations will cost the city $10,000 less than traditional stations.

Thanks to Anne Alt for additional reporting on Divvy.

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

  • what_eva

    Would the kiosks be moved to one of the new stations (and in turn that station ordered with kiosk-less)?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Seems likely that stations with kiosks at these ten locations would be moved to some of the new spots, and then stations without kiosks would be installed in the ten spots.

  • Frank Kotter

    Any updates on the D4E program? I feel it is absolutely necessary to make the system as inclusive as possible but was skeptical about members without a credit card as the only recourse to address incorrect usage of the system is to boot them out – the opposite of what we want.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    As I wrote, D4E now has over 1,300 members. I believe D4E members get warnings about unpaid late fees before their membership is deactivated. Haven’t heard of any issues with damage, loss or theft of bikes due to the lack of a credit card requirement.

  • Frank Kotter

    That’s really great to hear. Thanks for the info. Yes, I saw the current number but was more interested to know if that was with or without a high turnover. If few existing members are leaving the system I find it troubling that the numbers haven’t increased faster. I would think word of mouth would lead to a snowball affect. As D4E is basically free, does this indicate that the vast majority of socially marginal populations just don’t want to use the system?

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