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.

  • Warren Skipper

    I can understand the desire for better transportation infrastructure but honestly, as far south as Riverdale is, it could be considered a suburb. A CBA is a far reach when Divvy still sparsely covers the nearer south side.

  • I don’t understand what a CBA for what is already a benefit even means.

  • Tooscrapps

    CBAs are usually a trade-off/bargaining chip. I wholeheartedly believe Divvy should be accessible to the entire City but I’m not sure what these communities have to trade here.

  • There is no burden to getting a Divvy station. Either the neighborhood wants it or not.

    This whole CBA thing has gotten out of hand.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Community benefits agreement” might not be the correct term for what Deloris and other South Side bike advocates are seeking here, but they’re making a reasonable argument. They’ve been waiting six years for Divvy; they got dockless bike-share for several months last year only to have it yanked away in November; so they want the city to provide some kind of temporary bike-share service immediately instead of having to wait all summer for the Divvy stations to arrive.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    John is right, I think: Community Benefits Agreement is probably not the right phrase/arrangement being asked for / needed. If the goal is simply to obtain Divvy docking stations / bikes, then We Keep You Rolling should, I’d think, be happy about the Lyft deal and what the City has communicated about that deal. Yes, it will of necessity take some time to implement, but I think that it’s clear enough that stations/bikes will be coming to the far south side, and at a comparatively quick pace, no? Does the City, I wonder, have a map that shows the (approximate) locations of all the future stations, when the system is “built out?” If so, they should share that with Deloris and the public at large. The City can indicate that exact, final locations must be studied in more detail by engineers. The Divvy expansion plan is totally different than the CMAP’s study for Riverdale, which was, I think, about finding a ‘vision’ and identifying long-range actions or principles that should guide planning for transportation. The goal or purpose of plans like CMAP’s is in fact just the kind of action that we are seeing with the Divvy expansion plan. If We Keep You Rolling wants more on-street bikeways (conventional, sharrows, buffered, neighborhood greenways, separated, etc.), then they need to make sure that 1) their alderpersons are willing to put menu money into it, and 2) keep harassing CDOT to find locations/corridors where this can be done. When one looks at the latest (2019) CDOT Bike Map, one sees that the ‘density’ of bikeways on the south side is not as high as on the north side. The main reason is the number and size of ‘barriers’ on the south side (in the form of interstate highways and huge arterials, rail lines, rail yards, large industrial areas, waterways/water bodies, etc.) but also the neighboring suburbs are not ‘bike friendly’ and don’t allow or call for ‘connections,’ such as Evanston, Oak Park, Lincolnwood and Skokie do with their bikeway networks. Another reason is that currently, to the degree that this can be accurately measured, the “demand” does not appear to be as high. The reasons for this lower demand are many and complex — the kind of thing that historians and cultural anthropologists investigate and hypothesize about. However, this situation can and should be changed — people have to be made to see that cycling is a better way to get around than driving and lobby their politicians and vote the nay-sayers out of office!

  • Paul Scrabblor Fitzgerald

    @chicagocyclist You are recommending that people in Riverdale “lobby their politicians” and “keep harrassing CDOT…”, but also seem to argue that Ms. Lucas is wrong to push for an agreement between DIVVY and the community. It is confusing.

    I don’t think that anyone finds the DIVVY expansion plan “clear” in that as of last week’s MBAC meeting it sounded like there was zero plan in place for rolling out additional bikes.

    What do ‘historians and cultural anthropologists’ have to do with anything? That language is totally offensive in this context. You literally having a woman from the community advocating for a needed asset. Ask questions and listen more, please.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    I assume that you — like myself — are genuinely interested in helping south side communities become more bicycle- and walk-friendly, and more equitably invested in. This work, as Deloris and others who live there know, requires organizing, advocacy, politics, as well as a clear understanding where things stand now, what should change, and how to effect that change — education, engineering, encouragement. I did in fact ask questions in my post: 1) about the proposed pace of Divvy expansion, and 2) about the existence of a map showing anticipated Divvy station locations. These are key, constructive questions. The only question you, on the other hand, asked — which appears to me to have been sarcastic — is “What do ‘historians and cultural anthropologists’ have to do with anything?” My answer: a lot. And I would point you to the work of Adonia Lugo (http://www.urbanadonia.com/p/about_22.html) and Charles Brown (https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesbrownmpa), and retired professor Harry Wray (https://www.bikecommuters.com/2008/07/20/book-review-pedal-power-by-j-harry-wray/) among many other academics, public intellectuals, and advocates working effectively and passionately in this arena. I would guess that Deloris, a semi-retired educator herself, would agree with the role of teachers and the need for understanding societal- and community-level forces — as well as social geography and history — in addressing and strengthening equity and social justice in the world transportation and beyond. I am highly supportive of WKYR, Southside Trail Blazers, and other local advocates’ efforts to make an agreement with Lyft/CDOT/City of Chicago, if through that agreement they can get what they want and need, in terms of Divvy and other bicycling infrastructure. My point was really just that the agreement that Deloris was referring to (though the exact details — as the article itself points out — are not yet entirely clear yet), is not a (typical) CBA (see http://www.forworkingfamilies.org/page/community-benefits-101). The author, John Greenfield, says as much in his comment (below). Your advise to ask questions and listen more is good. Please follow it, my brother.

  • Paul Scrabblor Fitzgerald

    That question was sincere, not sarcastic. You still guessing about how Ms. Lucas feels about things instead of engaging people in discussion. Please, if you are supportive (and I know you are), let people speak for themselves.
    WRT the CBA, why is this not a typical CBA at this point? The benefit is clearly LYFT’s IPO. The bikeshare advocates of the southeast side were used in 2018 for a pilot and are given zero information regarding future rollout plans. What are they supposed to tell constiuents?


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