The New Divvy Bikes App Is Handy, But There’s Room for Improvement

A Divvy rider on the lakefront. Photo: Daly C.
A Divvy rider on the lakefront. Photo: Daly C.

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Earlier this month Divvy launched the Divvy Bikes app, which allows riders to buy passes, plan routes, find available bikes and check them out, and locate open docks to park the cycles after they finish their trip. The app, presented by Showtime, will eventually include more features, including trip history for riders to keep track of how many calories they burned.

Divvy photo 1
Green dots indicate stations with plenty of bikes, yellow dots are nearly empty stations, and red dots are empty.

It’s still possible to use the Transit app to buy passes and unlock bikes. To date, more than one million bikes have been unlocked with the Transit app.

To encourage more people to download the Divvy Bikes app, the bike-share system is giving away free rides to new app users through June 17th using the code FIRSTRIDEFREE. To redeem the free ride, download the app from the Android or Apple store and enter the code when prompted to add a discount code.

Several friends recently asked me if I thought the new Divvy Bikes app was worth getting. I was curious to try the new features.

In map view, zooming out uses colored dots for station locations: red for empty, yellow for nearly empty, and green for all the others. It’s easy to tell at a glance whether bikes are available at nearby stations. A toggle at the upper left corner of the screen switches from bike priority (looking for a bike) to dock priority (looking for open docks).

I asked a few friends for opinions on this feature. Two colorblind friends could only distinguish two out of three dot colors. Andrew Maselli thought it would be more accessible to colorblind users if an X was added to red dots and a dash was added to yellow dots. If you copy and paste the image above at this web site, you can simulate how the map view looks to a colorblind person.

The trip planner feature gives directions in addition to the location of the nearest Divvy station to your destination. As with any online mapping app, results may vary. The route suggested below for getting from Dearborn and Adams to 1200 West Taylor is far from ideal. I tried it from a few different starting points with the same destination and got this goofy routing via Roosevelt, which would be hazardous, annoying and longer than necessary — obviously there’s no need to head south to Roosevelt when your destination is on Taylor.

Divvy photo 3
A circuitous route suggested by the Divvy Bikes app.

The app certainly isn’t pulling its directions from Google maps, where I got this result, with a campus-savvy direct routing through UIC.

Google Maps directions were more helpful.
Google Maps directions were more helpful.

Rand McNally gave me this – a good route that may be easier for people who get confused trying to navigate through UIC.

The Rand McNally directions.
The Rand McNally directions.

To use the Divvy Bikes app to unlock a bike, go to a Divvy station with bikes available, open the app, hit Unlock a Bike, and you’ll get a code that’s valid for five minutes. Transit app has an identical function.

For general transit use, I’m a big fan of the well-designed Transit app. However, if I just want to get a bike or dock information quickly, the Divvy app is a bit more convenient, especially in the zoomed out color dot view shown above.

I’d give this app a B. With a better directions function and accessibility for colorblind folks, I’d give it A+.

In other Divvy news, the $3 single ride option, which was rolled out in February, has been used more than 30,000 times. Two electrical-assist “bike trains” will hit the streets next month, replacing vans used for “rebalancing” the cycles. The Divvy system turns five next month.

This post is made possible by a grant from Freeman Kevenides, a Chicago, Illinois personal injury law firm representing and advocating for bicyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable road users.  The content belongs to Streetsblog Chicago, and Freeman Kevenides Law Firm neither endorses nor exercises editorial control over the content.

  • Gene Parmesan

    The Transit App also provided bad bike directions. My process was to use the Transit App to find available bikes at nearby stations or even to plot the route to my destination just to quickly find the nearest divvy stations nearest to my start and end points, but then to switch over to Google Maps to generate my cycling route. Its clumsy but I didn’t see a real alternative. Someone needs to merge the Divvy/Transit functionality of finding stations and bike availability with the Google Maps API in a single app.

  • planetshwoop

    Google is jacking up their MAPs API prices quite a bit, so it’s unclear how companies will react to price hikes. In short, I expect fewer smaller firms will use them as widely as had been the case.

    http://geoawesomeness.com/developers-up-in-arms-over-google-maps-api-insane-price-hike/

  • Quincy Wagstaff

    It really needs to let you set favorite stations for it to be useful to me. I get a bike at a Metra station in the morning and I have two choices for getting off the train. Knowing bike availability is crucial, so I am sticking with CycleFinder for now.

    I got some completely whacky directions that seem to involve hauling my bike up the embankment of the Metra tracks, rather than just crossing the street.

  • Erik Hanson

    FWIW: The Taylor bridge doesn’t have a bike lane, and the shoulder is pretty narrow. Harrison’s probably the best option.

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