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Divvy Threw a Party for its Hardcore Winter Riders

Divvy gave Kerdia Roland a custom sweater that says “#1 Rider in 2017”.

In early February, Chicago's Divvy bikeshare system announced the Winter Medalist Challenge, an initiative to help keep ride levels up through what can be the rougher part of our least bike-friendly season.

At a Medalist "victory" party last Thursday at Logan Square's Emporium Arcade Bar, Divvy recognized members who made the various levels of the four-week-long Challenge, from at least one trip for Bronze, five or more trips to reach Silver, at least 10 trips to achieve Gold, and finally 100 or more trips to be a Platinum rider.

By tallying and rewarding the most hardcore riders out there, Divvy boasted 3,647 members who achieved Gold status, out of more than 37,000 total members) who made a total of 106,406 trips this winter.

Asked whether the strong ride numbers are a function of another mild global warming winter, or major growth in membership, or both, Divvy spokesperson Kelly Goldthorpe explains, “What was exciting to see was the narrow band of silver medalists relative to #DIVVYGOLD and bronze. We think that shows many of those members finding reasons to ride and get their #DIVVYGOLD. While our membership numbers were up, the trip count was a little lower - likely entirely attributable to winter.”

Goldthorpe also told Streetsblog that "94 percent of all stations were used during the challenge, demonstrating that across [the more than 100 square mile] footprint there is ridership even during the winter months."

There were even seven Platinum level members, who made over 100 trips during the month of the Challenge. Divvy recognized one extra special rider, Kerdia Roland, as the first and only double Platinum status member.

Roland uses his Divvy membership to support his work as an independent delivery worker for several delivery apps. He had two personal bikes stolen in the summer of 2017, so in August he joined Divvy. In a pinch he started using the Divvy bikes for his work, and “I realized that it was all around more cost effective and easier than maintaining my own bikes!,” said Roland.

Divvy's Goldthorpe added, “We're big fans of Kerdia. He demonstrates everything we pride ourselves on at Divvy, that the system is affordable, accessible and reliable. We hope his story encourages others to try the system, whether it is to get to work or whether it's for work!”

Divvy "gold medalists" Nick Lucas and Ruth Sierra at the winter biking appreciation party last week.

Ruth Sierra, a member since 2015, was also at the party to celebrate her Gold level status. She had already been a regular commuter cyclist until her bike got stolen – sense a theme, here?– so she joined Divvy. She uses a station near house almost every day to bike to the CTA station, takes the train to the Loop and docks there. When the weather's good she rides all the way to work, or for recreation.

Over the past couple of years she figured out how to dress for winter riding, and now that she's a year round rider she appreciates the added benefits of sanity and exercise, and even some extra fun in the snow, that she gets from bike commuting.

Sierra's friend Nick Lucas used to be a three-season rider, himself, until Divvy “gave him his winter season back.” When riding somewhere fun or for errands, Divvy is less of a commitment, Lucas explains, especially if the weather changes while he is out. Then he just bails to the CTA, cab or ride hail.

Gold member Alvaro Villagran moved to Chicago seven years ago from Argentina. He was around for Divvy's launch, but did not become a member right away. The combination of having his own bike stolen and then changing jobs meant that, like Ruth Sierra, he needed a way to make the first and last mile connection of his train commute. As a student at UIC, he took advantage of the student discount to join Divvy in 2016.

As an admitted mostly fair weather rider, Villagran uses Divvy to get around the Loop, UIC area, North and Northwest sides. One improvement he said he'd like to see is more stations at the North Branch Trail.

Even though he admitted to being a fair weather Divvy rider, Villagran has ridden at least once in the winter. Photo: Provided by Alvaro Villagran
Even though he admitted to being a fair weather Divvy rider, Alvaro has ridden at least once in the winter. Photo: Provided by Alvaro

Villagran happens to be so interested in Divvy's future that he's made it the subject of his Master's project in UIC's urban planning program. He's creating a framework of alternate futures for Divvy using changes and trends in bike sharing from around the world, such as integration with transit.

Also at the party, Divvy noted two systemwide improvements for 2017-18:

    • New seats and grips
    • Extending trips from 30 to 45 minutes; this was a change that was loudly applauded by many members, both when it was announced recently on social media, and again live at the party

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