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Divvy sets a new ridership record with more than 600K trips in August

4:58 PM CDT on September 21, 2020

Sign of the times: A masked rider on one of the new e-Divvies. Photo: John Greenfield

Update 9/22/20, 2:15 PM: According to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Claffey, the decision to empty Divvy stations along Black Lives Matter protest routes was made by CDOT and Divvy, not the police department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and was done with the intention of making it easier for demonstrators to find parking after riding bike-share to the action, and was therefore "in support of the Black Lives Matter movement."

Anecdotally, it's appeared that Chicago has been part of this summer's national biking boom, as residents seek socially-distanced transportation and recreation options during the COVID-19. But now we've got some data to back up that hunch: The Chicago Department of Transportation recently announced that August was the Divvy bike-share system's largest ridership month ever with 612,928 rides taken, a 3.9 percent increase compared to last year.

Part of that can surely be attributed to the fact that there are more Divvy bikes on the street than ever before, because CDOT and Lyft, the Divvy concessionaire, are in the midst of expanding the system into the Far South Side and rolling out the new electric-assist Divvies. More than 50,000 of the trips were taken on e-Divvies.

On the other hand, with so many people working from home and many entertainment venues shuttered during the pandemic, there are fewer places to ride to. And then there were the ill-advised nighttime shutdowns of the system during the civil unrest in mid-August. "It seems like the general biking boom played a role, as well as the very nice summer weather we had during August," said CDOT spokesperson Mike Claffey.

Workplace shutdowns do seem to have negatively affected rides by Divvy annual members, which were down 19.2 percent in August compared to last year. But trips taken via single-ride or 24-hour passes were up by a staggering 54.6 percent year-over-year. That suggests that many residents have been dipping their toes in the Divvy waters lately. That number certainly hasn't been driven by an influx of tourist traffic, which has been pretty much nonexistent during the coronavirus crisis.

CDOT also provided numbers on the Divvy system expansion and electrification. Over 800 e-Divvies have been released since the black bikes first debuted on July 29. Twenty-eight traditional Divvy stations and three "e-stations" (simple bike rack installations for parking the e-Divvies, which have built-in locks) have been installed so far on the South Side.

In other Divvy news, transit routes ​and stations have been added to the Divvy app to help with multimodal route planning. Three Divvy For Everyone​ ​sign-up centers for $5 memberships for lower-income residents ​are back open after being closed early on during the pandemic. That closes a reverse-loophole that in effect made it impossible to sign up for a D4E membership if you met the income requirement for the discount, but aren't signed up for public aid, which is a requirement for registering for D4E online.

Street Love Ride participants. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Street Love Ride participants. Photo: Cameron Bolton

Divvy has also been providing loaner bikes for a number of group rides in Black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. These included the Street Love Ride in North Lawndale, hosted by Boxing Out Negativity and Equiticity, which drew 400 people, with many of them using the 100 Divvy cycles that were available free of charge. Divvy also brought 100 bikes to ​We Keep You Rollin’s 5th Annual Legacy Bike Ride​ in the Riverdale community area, which was in part a celebration of Divvy expanding to this area. WKYR’s leader Deloris Lucas tirelessly lobbied for Divvy expansion to the Far South Side.

One of the other claims from CDOT about Divvy's support for Black communities was more of a head-scratcher. "In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in cooperation with [the Chicago Police Department] and the Office of Emergency Management, we proactively emptied Divvy stations along planned demonstration routes," CDOT said in a memo. The police and OEMC have pushed for downtown CTA and Divvy shutdowns as a misguided response to civil unrest that hurts the most marginalized Chicagoans. However, it's not clear how CDOT making it more difficult for protesters to bike home after participating in a demonstration could possibly be interpreted as supporting Black Lives Matter.

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