Divvy Security Reinstallations Speeded up, Possibly in Response to Our Coverage

A stolen Divvy, with a tasteful paint job. Photo via Sam Barker
A stolen Divvy, with a tasteful paint job. Photo via Sam Barker

Last week I reported in the Chicago Reader and Streetsblog that city emails reveal the current Divvy theft epidemic was essentially a crisis of the bike-share system’s own making. An August 31 exchange between a Chicago Department of Transportation official and the head of the company that manufactures the bike-share cycles and stations indicated that 500-plus bikes have gone missing, largely because of a short-sighted decision to remove a key piece of security hardware from the stations to make it easier to dock the cycles. The manufacturer noted that Divvy had been reinstalling the parts at a rate of only one station per day, which meant that it would have taken the better part of two years before the entire system was secure again.

Shortly before publication of the Reader article, city officials and Divvy staff told me that the pace of reinstalling the dock components had been accelerated and would be completed by December 31.

Yesterday, after I told a city official I was getting ready to go on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program to discuss the theft problem, he provided more good news. At this point over half of the system’s 10,250 docks have gotten the security hardware again, and the reinstallations are expected to wrap up by November 30, a month sooner than previously planned. The official added that the theft problem also seems to tapering off since teens are back in school (“so they’re not looking for something to do”) and less people will be seeking to ride bikes as the weather gets colder.

I had a good discussion of the whole Divvy theft fiasco last night on the show with host Phil Ponce. You can watch the full interview here. If you’re in a hurry, here the topics we covered:

00:50: How we determined the scope of the theft problem

01:55: Why the missing security hardware component was removed

03:05: Divvy’s update on the reinstallations

03:30: How I first heard about the theft problem

05:00: Do I believe the city’s claim that the situation is now under control?

05:20: Are taxpayers on the hook for all the missing bikes?

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  • Justin

    I prefer to think that it was sped up in response to the cwbchicago.com coverage

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’ve previously acknowledged CWB’s role in tweeting about thefts and shedding light on the extent of the problem via arrest numbers, but Streetsblog was the first publication to get the city to acknowledge there was a theft problem and discuss what they were doing to address it, and the first to publish an article about it (CWB published their first post on the issue several hours after our first piece came out): https://chi.streetsblog.org/2018/07/12/in-response-to-recent-series-of-thefts-divvy-is-beefing-up-dock-security/

  • Justin

    Hey John, I was just making a joke about the drama between the two websites from the other week. Keep up the great work, I love Chicago Streetsblog.

  • johnaustingreenfield
  • Justin

    I read both. Take it easy on the police, especially the rank and file people. Most of them are just trying to do their jobs the way that their commanders dictate, which in turn is in response to the demands of our lovely Chicago politicians. Those same politicians who will slam the gang culture in one breath and then make deals with those very gangs to be allowed to canvass for votes in their neighborhoods in the next. I know for fact because I have worked in Chicago political campaigns and there are some neighborhoods where you don’t send canvassers out without a deal with the local gang, and yet you still see lots of canvassers…

  • Its very good news that this problem was localized to Chicago and wasnt about to be replicated in the dozen systems around the world with the same hardware

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Sure, while some individuals on the police force may be guilty of racial bias, the big picture is that racial profiling and racially skewed enforcement are systemic issues. For example, there’s the CPD’s recent acknowledgement that the exponentially higher number of bike tickets written in some communities of color versus majority-white areas is due to a decision by police leadership to enforce the law differently in different kinds of communities. The rank-and-file officers aren’t responsible for that policy choice.

  • outerloop

    “the current Divvy theft epidemic was essentially a crisis of the bike-share system’s own making”- Is this a form of victim blaming?
    If my apartment gets broken into from a burglar breaking a window, is the resulting burglary essentially my fault for not putting bars on my windows?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    It’s probably more analogous to leaving your front door unlocked in a big city. Your property is less secure than your peers (in this case Citi Bike, Capital Bikeshare, etc., PBSC companies who didn’t remove their dock security hardware), so you shouldn’t be surprised when someone walks into your house and takes your stuff.

  • outerloop

    Thanks for your response. Thinking more seriously about getting CCW now; don’t want to be an easy mark on the street.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Uh, no. Carrying a concealed weapon when nobody else is doing so isn’t analogous to not removing a key security part from bike-share docks!

  • outerloop

    There are concealed weapons on our fellow citizens, even those who don’t carry them legally. I’ve had a gun pulled on me on the street once and another time was the intended victim of a street robbery. I don’t want to be the easiest target and it seems like our society’s been making more excuses lately for those who commit crimes. I can’t think of a better approach for self preservation. What are better ideas?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Look, this is a post about bike-share dock security. Please take the CCW debate elsewhere. Thanks.

  • outerloop

    Whoa, sorry. I wasn’t trying to make it about that.

    I was originally asking about how we’re essentially blaming the victims of the thefts more than those who took the bikes. The thought that easier targets are to hold most of the blame when someone actively jimmies the lock doesn’t seem right.

    Security in the city is important if you want to keep your bike. I use 2 locks on mine and try not to be the easiest one to take from the rack. I understand that some theft is due to easy to take items. I feel bad for those getting their bikes stolen but I try not to blame them for it. Divvy theft might have an extra enticing aspect to it since they’re all over and there’s a known method to take them but I don’t know if they should shoulder most of the blame. Just my opinion but I thought I’d bring it up.

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