Divvy Bike-Share Bicycles Make Public Debut at Bike The Drive

Testing out Divvy.

Divvy bike-share bicycles were on display at yesterday’s Bike the Drive post-ride festival in Grant Park, giving the public its first peek at the blue bikes which just arrived in town on Saturday. I took a spin around the block with Scott Kubly, deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department of Transportation. This was my first time riding a bike manufactured by the BIXI company. They’re available in Toronto (where Anne Alt reviewed her experience), Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Montreal, and Boston. The bikes are good-looking, sturdy, and comfortable. They weigh about 45 pounds, which is 20 pounds less than my daily Dutch cargo cycle.

Active Transportation Alliance Deputy Director Melody Geraci gives her approval.

Registration for annual memberships opens this week. The cost for unlimited 30-minute trips is $75 per year or $7 a day. Founding memberships, which will include perks-to-be-named-later, will be $125. Divvy staff were giving away $10 off coupons for the annual pass. Let us know how you plan to use Divvy in the comments section – the most interesting response will win a coupon.

Scott Kubly, Steven Vance, Nick Adam
Kubly, myself, and graphic designer Nick Adam (who collaborated on the Divvy branding for Firebelly Design). Photo: Mark Wagenbuur.

Here’s a tip for local bicycle shop owners: start advertising bikes you sell with similar features as the Divvy cycles. These bikes are very user-friendly since they’re equipped with all the necessary accessories for urban riding: lights, fenders, chain guard, and gears and brakes located within the hubs. Bike-share systems have been shown to influence their members to start using their own bikes more, or to buy a bike if they don’t already own one. After using Divvy, people will be coming to your shop looking to purchase a similar ride.

  • Anonymous

    Is that last photo taken by Mark Wagenbuur of the blog BicycleDutch? If so, I can’t wait to see his take on what is happening for cycling in Chicago.

  • Anonymous

    On days that I can’t ride in to work, I plan to ride the bike to a Metra station, especially when I don’t plan to return to that Metra station at the end of the day. After work when I want to go place where I cannot show up in my bicycle garb, I can grab a bike near my office. And go from there. Today when this happens, I usually take a bus, which can be really slow near downtown during rush hour.
    And I am not a big fan of riding under the influence, so if I plan to do some proper drinking, I can take a Divvy there, and a bus of or cab home.

    These examples show that for me a lot of the usage will be one-way. So it becomes another option in my transportation choices.

    Steven, I can see that the handlebars maybe a little low for tall folks like yourself. But this is not a long distance bike, so it should be OK, no?

    Somewhat related question: Is there any data available from other places that shows average distance ridden?

  • Julie

    I’m going to use the crap out of these to go from Ogilvie TC (where I work) to lunch spots on Randolph and other places that are a bit too far to walk with an hour break. And over to Millenium Park for free events this summer!

  • I think the handlebars are a bit low for people 1.8m and taller but I still felt comfortable on the short ride around the block. I imagine it would still be comfortable for a 30 minute ride with many stops at intersections.

    Thank you for your detailed usage description.

  • Yep, it’s that Mark. Here’s a photo of him at the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/8849279117/

  • Bike sharing seems like it will definitely increase people’s lunch options.

    Thank you for your reply.

  • Ryan Wallace

    I am so excited for the bike share system!! I consider myself one of the majority of citizens that is interested in biking, yet still a little hesitant. I have never owned a bike while living in Chicago, and have thought a lot about purchasing one, but am going to use the bike share system as a way to dip my toe in the water without diving all the way in. I plan to use it often to get to work (downtown from Lakeview), and to expand my eat/dine/shop options beyond where I can walk/bus. Hopefully I like it enough that I find myself actually in the market for a bike next spring.

  • For any Americans reading this blog, that’s about 5’11”.

  • Ryan, that puts you squarely in the camp of the estimated 60 percent of the population that the Portland, Oregon, transportation department classified as “interested but concerned”: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/158497

    Sounds like you’re a perfect candidate to use Divvy!

  • He’s probably the taller guy in the photo, since the Dutch are literally the tallest people on the planet: http://www.interbasket.net/news/4385/2009/09/average-height-by-country-males-20-years/

    Interestingly, the list of the tallest countries in the world coincides pretty closely with the most bike-friendly nations: The Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and Germany are all in the top 11.

  • Anonymous

    I had not even thought to use it as a ride TO barhopping and then a cab home, so thanks for this comment! Usually, I leave my bike home if I’m going to make it a late night, which is always a bit of a bummer.

  • Jennifer

    I am going to use Divvy in a scientific experiment to test the Mary Poppins hypothesis.

  • Lisa Curcio

    Americans read this blog? :-)

  • Anonymous

    I’m really bummed by that location map they published and that it doesn’t service anything on the west side of UK Village or west of Western on Chicago. I was really excited for this (i’ve honestly been talking it up to my friends for months, and been thinking about each trip I’ve made recently and how it would change with Divvy) and now don’t see it as being a convenience for my situation. I hope it’s successful, but I went from ready to buy a yearly pass this week to probably not purchasing one at all.

  • Assuming the program is successful, which I’m confident it will be, they’ll be expanding it outside the planned coverage area. It’s likely that most areas that lie just outside the coverage area they plan to complete by 2014 will get the bikes in 2015.

    Although the docking station location selection process is pretty far along, I believe you can still put in a request here: http://share.chicagobikes.org/

    And even if you don’t wind up with a station right by your house, it’s likely a membership would still be useful for things like running errands in the Loop after you’ve taken the CTA downtown.

  • Anonymous

    Is there a reason they’re promoting the initial push of this more as an extension of existing CTA facilities, and not as an alternative to them? I suppose that’s the easiest way to get early adapters used to very short trips, which they’ll get more comfortable turning into longer ones eventually.

    My plan is to use Divvy as the reason I won’t have to rely on the CTA’s spoke & center-hub structure or be at the mercy of the bus schedule. I suspect many others will treat it the same way.

    That Chicago & California station would be great (and would resolve my current issues), but it’s not included on the map the Tribune published. Source?

  • Sorry, my mistake – the station I was looking at is actually at Division and California, at the SE corner of the Humboldt Park green space and the west end of the Paseo Boricua business strip.

    Bike share is particularly good for “last mile” trips, to help you get from transit to your final destination, so that’s why they’re starting out by putting docking stations at transit stops.

  • Anonymous

    Mark (person seen on the left in the picture) may be thinking: “Does the chevron on the bike frame have to do with being a road warrior, or perhaps as a result of being wounded in a collision with a motorized vehicle?”

    I recall Dutch CROW traffic engineer Hillie Talens telling me after the 2011 Think Bike workshop in Los Angeles that the Netherlands would never use the sharrows symbol (chevron with bicycle symbol placed below it).

    She didn’t have to explain the reason for this, it was quite obvious. The Dutch try to ensure that bicyclists are only in mixed traffic where there are few large mass motor vehicles traveling per day and the speed is limited to 18 mph, or less. In California sharrows may be used on roads where there is a posted speed limit of 35 mph.

    New York City bragged about installing 200 miles of bike lanes in three years:


    But if you look at their listing of the types and quantity of bicycle infrastructure installed per fiscal year its clear that they are including sharrows as bike lanes when they make these proclamations.


    It turns out that NYC had installed less than 200 miles of bike lanes in the six fiscal years 2007-2012 when looking at their documents. The highest number was 62 miles in FY09.

    Los Angeles is matching the pace of installation of sharrows that NYC had installed in FY ’07-’09 and has installed 80 miles of bike lanes in the current fiscal year. They still have another month to go before the FY ends. This might be a record for the miles of bike lanes installed in a fiscal year for any U.S. city. Then again, Los Angeles has more miles of streets than any other U.S. city.

    I also noticed that Portland only has 181 miles of bike lanes. That’s just short of 14% of their 1,300 miles of arterial streets. Considering that Portland has the highest rate of cycling of any major U.S. city, this is a good indication of how difficult it is to take away lanes from motor vehicles.

    Los Angeles has recently doubled the amount of bike lanes compared to what existed in 2007 with 305 miles just completed. That’s just shy of 17% of this city’s 1,800 miles of arterial streets. Seeing the level of resistance to taking away motor vehicle lanes to install bike lanes in LA and how many miles of bike lanes Portland has installed, I’d expect the number of bike lanes installed per fiscal year in LA to dramatically fall off from here on out. This also occurred in NYC the next fiscal year after installing 62 miles of bike lanes and I would expect the same thing to happen in Chicago very shortly.

    Los Angeles is also supposed to get a bike sharing system this year through Bike Nation and just like in NYC its not costing the city anything.

    Bike Nations expectation was probably for installing bus stop sized advertising at the kiosks in order to turn a profit. But LA has recently restricted them to only having advertising on the bike frames.

    I don’t expect to see much, if anything, in the way of bicycle sharing from Bike Nation in LA because of this. The capital and operating costs of running a bicycle sharing system is just too expensive for a private firm to turn a significant profit without the financial support from sponsors, government or advertising.

  • NYC also use to count the mileage of 2-way bike lanes twice; not sure if they’re still doing that.

  • Adam Herstein

    I’d like to know the perks of the founding membership before I shell out an extra $50…

  • Anonymous

    Judging from the 475 center-line miles of bike lanes listed by the League of American Bicyclists for NYC in 2009, and the amount that the city has built since then, they should have over 500 center-line miles of bike lanes and at least 150 miles of bike paths.

    That’s considerably more than the 300 miles of bike lanes and 56 miles of bike paths for Los Angeles and yet NYC has a commuting modal share for bicycling that is four fifths that of Los Angeles.

    Paris had a similar low rate of bicycling after greatly increasing the amount of bicycle infrastructure. The start of Velib bicycle sharing in 2007 not only gave a large boost to bicycling with these public bikes, but also people started to use their own bikes in much greater number. Paris went from a bicycling modal share of 1.0 percent in 2000 to 2.5 percent in 2010.

    I would expect a similar effect for NYC, but due to the relatively small number of bicycles in CitiBike the impact will be much less than it was with the 20,000 Velib bicycle share system in Paris. With four times the population, NYC would need about 80,000 bicycles to have the same proportion of bicycles to population for their bicycle share system compared to Paris.

    Wtih 5,000 bikes, Chicago will have a higher proportion of Divvy bicycles to population than the 4,000 bicycle system that LA is anticipating or the 10,000 bicycles that CitiBike should have sometime next year.

    Considering that there are 13,000 taxi cabs in New York City, a overcrowded subway system and some of the slowest transit buses in the nation, I would expect that the CitiBike system will quickly have a much greater demand than the supply of bikes available.

    A odd thing about the bicycling infrastructure in Los Angeles is that before the 2010 bike plan was approved in March of 2011, the bike lanes that had been installed were mostly in the far reaches of the suburbs that are populated by single family houses with wide streets that can have speed limits of up to 50 mph.

    The bike lanes added since then were spread throughout the city. The bike lanes are mostly disconnected dots and dashes on a map. The DOT put them wherever they could without having a major impact on traffic, which would need community outreach meetings and council districts approval.

    When the first CicLAvia bicycling event took place in October of 2011 in downtown LA there was no bicycle infrastructure in downtown, or leading into downtown.

    After several events it suddently occured to me the importance of having an extensive rail system that could handle a large amount of bicycles on a Sunday when these events took place. A lot of these participants were coming from other cities by way of driving or taking a train.

    A LA Metro employee traveled to the subway to get to the first event and noticed an increasing amount of people trying to get onto the train with bicycles. She called a manager and advised him to hookup all of the available train cars to handle all of the bicycles.

    The last CicLAvia event in April drew an estimated 180,000 participants according to the organizers and the next one in June will close down Wilshire Blvd for seven hours.

    The increasing amount of monthly CicLAvia events
    (3 this year. 4 next year) and participants is by far the strongest political motivator for supporting bicycling in Los Angeles. It seems to have much of the visual impact that catches the eye of the news media and politicians that the massive protests for improved bicycling safety that occurred in the Netherlands during the 1970’s.

  • What are your parameters?

  • He’s the shorter guy. The earlier generations of Dutch are shorter.

  • Will all of your trips start and end there?

  • Interesting!

  • Jennifer

    My bike and a Divvy bike, in each of three outfits: Normal Clothes, a Pretty Dress, and ActiveWear, all other conditions being as similar as possible. With additional funding, I might expand the study to multiple neighborhoods.

  • Ted King

    Per Google [ 180 cm = in ] it’s 70.87 inches.
    Or one can shift the decimal point once to the right (18 decimeters) and multiply by four (4) to get an upper bound of seventy-two (72) inches.

    Personally, I’m comfortable with both major systems (English and Metric). Each has its uses and I find that they are actually complementary.

    P.S. U.S. citizen commenting from the S.F.Bay area.

  • Based on New York City data over two days, Citibike members made 12,907 trips and traveled 32,265 miles, so 2.50 miles per trip was the average. Source.

  • Ryan, you were selected as the winner of the coupon code and you told us you signed up and were member #766. Congratulations!


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