Far South Advocate Deloris Lucas Calls for a Divvy Community Benefit Agreement

Deloris Lucas (orange shirt) at a We Keep You Rollin' event. Photo: WKYR
Deloris Lucas (orange shirt) at a We Keep You Rollin' event. Photo: WKYR

As the Divvy prepares to expand citywide, longtime Far South Side bike advocate and community activist Deloris Lucas insists that residents of underserved neighborhoods deserve a community benefits agreement.

Lucas is the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council’s community representative for the Far South Side. After discussing the need for a CBA at last week’s council meeting, this week she told me that what she and other South Side activists want an agreement with the city that would cover the Divvy expansion. Lucas said the activists are still working out the exact details of what they want the CBA to encompass, but the goal is to have “equitable distribution of resources” and “inclusion.”

During the MBAC meeting, Divvy program director Amanda Woodall explained that the plan is to expand Divvy into 17 South Side community areas: Mt. Greenwood, Morgan Park, Beverly, Washington Heights, Roseland, West Pullman, Pullman, Auburn-Gresham, Chatham, Calumet Heights, Avalon Park, Burnside, South Chicago, East Side, Hegewisch, Riverdale, and South Deering.

“We’re currently working on the details of how the change is going to go and what the expansion is going to look like,” Woodall said. She emphasized that Divvy will be “running a really robust community engagement” program including outreach events. “We also really want to identify what the community needs are. We don’t want it to be an outreach event where we go in with our own agenda.” She added that educating residents about the advantages of bikes will be another big component of the outreach effort, she said.

But at the end of the meeting, Lucas said she wanted more from Divvy, and the city in general. “I suggest we design community equity benefits agreement with advocates… in neighborhoods that don’t have Divvy,” she said.

The chief reason why she and other advocates want something in writing and legally enforceable, Lucas said, is that there have been several plans designed to improve transportation on the Far South Side in general and Riverdale community area in particular that have yet to result in any change. She specifically cited the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Riverdale Community Area Multimodal Transportation Plan, which was approved in January, as an example. “The plan ended, we had a beautiful presentation and we’ve done absolutely nothing with [the plan],” Lucas said. “ There hasn’t been another meeting.”

She urged the city to “be more real about distributing those resources equitably.” Chicago Department of Transportation assistant commissioner Sean Wiedel said he would follow up with Lucas on the matter.

Lucas told me that while having Divvy expand into Far South Side is a great step, Divvy set the goal of completing the citywide expansion by 2021, which she feels isn’t soon enough. CDOT has said that this summer’s expansion will focus on the Far South Side. “It’s a great plan. I’m just ready to start implementing those things and implementing the Divvy expansion. I’m thrilled that they’re expanding the network, but they’re not expanding it fast enough.”

Lucas said that she would rather have Divvy bring bikes to Riverdale immediately,  even if it’s only on the pilot basis. Last summer the neighborhood was part of athe city’s dockless bike-share pilot, but after the test ended in November, all of the bikes were removed. In addition to the fact that this is her home community, she argued that the Far South Side needs bike infrastructure at least as much as any other part of Chicago.

“We have five different communities that are linked together in this area,” Lucas said. “They seem close, but it’s far when you’re walking in the elements, when you’re out there on your own, trying to get from one side to another. Riding a bike would be faster and an e-bike would be even faster. So I’m encouraging [a Divvy pilot in Riverdale] as a way to appease this neighborhood that has nothing. We don’t even have biking infrastructure. No painted lanes, no bike signs, barely any racks. We’re behind the times.”

She also questioned the logic of rolling out an e-scooter pilot in neighborhoods in West and Northwest side that don’t have Divvy yet, saying that it “still doesn’t satisfy the community.” She argued that neighborhoods that hosted the docless bike pilot should be getting permanent shared-mobility service before another test is launched.

Lucas also argued that there weren’t many opportunities for the public to give input on the scooter pilot. Given her mobility activism, she said, it would have made sense for her to be invited to the table, but she wasn’t.

Asked how soon she expects the CBA proposal to be finalized, Lucas noted that she and other activists wear many hats, so it depends on how much time they can carve out. But once they do finalize the proposal, they want to meet with Lori Lightfoot, the mayor’s chief equity officer Candace Moore, and her chief of staff, Maurice Classen.

“We don’t have much to build on out here, so anything we get would be a win-win, whether it’s a bike path, bike lane, protected lane or even a bike rack,” Lucas said.

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