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CDOT: South, West Sides Are Getting Fewer Divvy Stations, Partly Due to Theft Concerns

The Divvy station installed today at Malcolm X College. Photo: John Greenfied

Update: 8/29/18: Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey informed us today that the map of upcoming Divvy station locations CDOT provided yesterday was inaccurate, with two stations erroneously included:  

    • Aberdeen and Randolph, on the Near West Side is a station that has already been installed and was paid for with private funds, and therefore is not included in the fall deployment. 
    • Noble and Potomac, in West Town, was under consideration earlier in the year, but did not ultimately make the final list.

I've swapped in the new, correct map with 36 station locations.

Yesterday the Chicago Department of Transportation indicated that they had largely abandoned last year's plan to  use the next batch of Divvy stations to increase dock density in underserved communities.

Today CDOT released the locations of the 36 stations that will be installed this year, confirming that most of the new docks will be going to parts of town that already have plenty of stations, including many affluent or gentrifying neighborhoods. Department staffers indicated that a factor in the final station placement was feedback from some South and West side stakeholders who said they didn’t want new stations, influenced by a recent wave of arrests for possession of stolen Divvies.

The 36 new station locations (black dots.)
The 36 new station locations (black dots.)
The 36 new station locations (black dots.)

Here’s where the new stations are going, broken down by community area. See the bottom of the post for a list of the station intersections.

    • Avalon Park: 1 station
    • Woodlawn: 1 station
    • Greater Grand Crossing: 2 stations
    • Englewood: 2 stations
    • West Englewood: 2 stations
    • Fuller Park: 1 station
    • McKinley Park: 1 station
    • Austin: 1 station
    • Near West Side: 6 stations
    • West Town: 5 stations
    • Logan Square: 2 stations
    • Near North Side: 5 stations
    • Lincoln Park: 1 station
    • Lakeview: 1 station
    • Uptown: 1 station
    • Lincoln Square: 1 station
    • Rogers Park: 1 station
    • Irving Park: 2 stations

All told, 25 of the 36 stations are going to the last ten community areas on this list, which are all whiter and/or wealthier than the city average. Most of these communities already have a good density of stations, and many of them, especially downtown and on the Near North Lakefront, currently feature convenient quarter-mile (two block) spacing.

After the opening of the first of the new crop of stations at Malcolm X College, CDOT consultant Amanda Woodall, who works on Divvy policy issues, and spokesman Mike Claffey talked with me about why underserved communities are getting fewer stations than originally planned.

Woodall said the two goals of the expansion were making sure that no station was more than a half mile from a neighboring station, as well as addressing a dearth of bikes and/or open docks in high-demand areas. “There’s a balance between providing density in places that need more transportation resources, but also trying to ensure good service in the areas where people are already relying on the system.

So why did there wind up being less emphasis on the former goal? “During the coordination process with all of the stakeholders, aldermen, and [the Illinois Department of Transportation], some of those locations were pulled from this list, which is why it may not look exactly like what we had wanted it to when we started,” Woodall said.

“We can’t just plunk down stations in places where people aren’t asking for them,” Claffey added. “You need community buy-in.”

What are the concerns from South and West Side stakeholders that led to the rejection of proposed station locations? “There are a lot of questions about how Divvy fits into the needs of the communities, and [whether] people living in the communities perceive Divvy as something that they can use for transportation and recreation,” Woodall said. “There are also concerns related to everything that’s been reported about the way that people are using Divvy.”

Woodall was referring to this summer's apparent wave of Divvy thefts, including the recent news that over 120 adults have been arrested for possession of stolen Divvies since July 1, mostly on the South and West sides. In addition, some Black bike advocates have accused the police of racially profiling African Americans on bike-share in an effort to recover missing bikes.

One community that’s conspicuously absent from the list of places getting new Divvy stations is South Shore, a predominantly Black neighborhood that contains the southernmost stretch the Lakefront Trail. Last year CDOT officials discussed the possibility of increasing Divvy density in South Shore to see whether more convenient station spacing would lead to higher ridership.

But in September 2017, South Shore resident Qaedah Muhammad told the Sun-Times stolen Divvies were surfacing in the neighborhood and reported that there were 20 arrests for possession of stolen bikes in her police district the previous month. “If they can’t manage those stations, they should take them out of here because we have enough problems without adding stolen bikes,” Muhammad told the paper. “We are already complaining about crime and criminal activity, and this is adding to it.”

South Shore resident Eric Allix Rogers told me he suspects Muhammad has continued to be vocal about the issue since the article came out, which could have been a factor in why the neighborhood isn’t getting more stations. (Rogers adds that Divvy bikes seem to be increasingly scarce on the South Side, with many stations having only one or two bikes, if any.)

Woodall’s comments suggest that some South and West siders shared Muhammad’s opinion that stolen Divvy bikes are a distraction for the police, and therefore weren’t interested in getting more stations. Others may feel the bikes are a temptation that could lead to more local residents being jailed, as well as innocent Divvy riders being unfairly stopped by the police.

While we were discussing the theft issue, I mentioned that Streetsblog readers have asked what’s the right thing to do if you see a Divvy bike that you suspect has been stolen and/or abandoned. Dialing 911 could potentially escalate the situation, but Woodall noted that calling the Divvy customer service line, 1-855-55-DIVVY, is an alternative. “If you feel safe doing so, if you take the bike and return it to the nearest dock, you are a hero,” she said. “Our main concern is getting the bikes back if they go astray.”

But Woodall cautioned that bikes that appear to be stolen may not be. “With the new Divvy Explorer Pass [$15 for 24 hours of unlimited three-hour rides], it’s entirely possible that a person checks out a bike and they have three hours of ride time, and they maybe just stop at a store and run in real quick to buy something to drink,” she said. “We obviously don’t want to encourage people to take those bikes and re-dock them.”

She added that in other cases people may disregard the rule against lending a bike you’ve legally checked out to a friend, or the age requirement of 16 years. “Those are violations of our policies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a theft has occurred.”

Most importantly, Woodall said, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions about who is or isn’t a valid Divvy user. “When people see community members on Divvy bikes, they should never make assumptions about that individual, or how they got that bike.”

Here's the full, updated, list of the 36 station intersections from CDOT:

Wood St & Chicago Ave
Central Park Ave & Bloomingdale Ave
Wood St & Augusta Blvd
Leavitt St & Chicago Ave
LaSalle St & Huron St
Leavitt St & Division St
Lake Shore Dr & Chicago Ave
State St & 54th St
Cornell Dr & Hayes Dr
Eggleston Ave & 69th St
Michigan Ave & 71st St
Rhodes Ave & 71st St
South Chicago Ave & Elliott Ave
Damen Ave & 37th St
Elizabeth St & 59th St
Carpenter St & 63rd St
Stewart Ave & 63rd St
Campbell Ave & Grand Ave
Damen Ave & Jackson Blvd
Racine Ave & Washington Blvd
Damen Ave & Lake St
Western Ave & Fillmore St
Ashland Ave & Bloomingdale Ave
Bernard St & Elston Ave
Latrobe Ave & Chicago Ave
Kildare Ave & Montrose Ave
Hoyne Ave & Balmoral Ave
Fairbanks St & Superior St
Franklin St & Ohio St
Orleans St & Hubbard St
Clinton St & Washington Blvd
Canal St & Jackson Blvd
Lincoln Park Conservatory
Clark St & Newport St
Lakefront Trail & Wilson Ave
Sheridan Rd & Columbia Ave

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