Belmont Cragin and Hermosa celebrate new Divvy stations, bikeway network
Several dozen Belmont Cragin and Hermosa residents showed up to the ribbon cutting for the Northwest Side neighborhood’s first Divvy bike-share station this evening at Cragin Park. As an extra incentive, Divvy offered attendees free two-year memberships.
The Chicago Department of Transportation, which oversees the Divvy program, and local community leaders are taking a saturation approach to help make biking a safe, convenient, and appealing transportation and recreation in these blue-collar, largely Latino communities, which aren’t served by the ‘L’ system. In addition to 25-to-30 Divvy “E-stations” (suitable for parking the newer black electric-assist cycles), CDOT is striping a dense grid of new bikeways, adding up to 17 miles. This network will include several Neighborhood Greenway treatments on side streets with contraflow (“wrong-way”) bike lanes that legalize biking in both directions on one-way streets.
CDOT has already installed contraflow lanes on Wrightwood and Kilbourn avenues; Roscoe Avenue will be finished in the near future; and the rest of the network is slated for completion later this year. The bikeways are being funded through the Chicago Works infrastructure program, which includes a $49 million earmark for bike and bus lanes and other pavement markings.
The transportation department is also installing about 100 bike racks in the area for personal bikes. And the Northwest Side community Development Corporation is funding another 45 neighborhood-branded racks. Along with multiple visits from CDOT’s SAFE Ambassadors to community events, all these efforts are the equivalent of rolling out a welcome mat for Belmont Cragin and Hermosa residents who might be interested in giving biking a spin.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, local alderman Felix Cardona (31st) said that the new bike infrastructure is an example of Belmont Cragin and Hermosa getting the “nice things” residents deserve. He added that he recently bought an electric scooter because he wants to set an example of how it’s possible to get around the area without driving.
CDOT staffer Amanda Woodall, who helps manage the Divvy program, noted that 107 new stations are being installed during this phase of Divvy expansion into the West Side. She thanked Lyft, the Divvy concessionaire, for $50 million in capital investments in Chicago bike infrastructure as part of its current contract with Chicago.
After the ribbon was cut, with the scissors wielded by a local youngster named Marjorie, Alderman Cardona talked with Streetsblog about how neighborhood residents are responding to the sudden influx of new bike amenities. He said some people were hesitant about the new contraflow bike lanes. “I said ‘Give it a chance, and believe me, this will all work out.’ I’ve seen a lot of people using the bike lanes, so it’s clear they’re working.”
Cardona said the main pushback he’s heard was from a business on Belmont Avenue that didn’t want a Divvy station installed nearby. “They don’t like change. I said we’re going to put it there and see how it works out.”
Tamara Conway, a representative of Lyft, noted that Divvy has seen record-breaking ridership this year, thanks to the expansion of the system and the popularity of the e-bikes. Over 814,000 rides were taken in July, up 33 percent from the same month last year. The network saw its highest-ever ridership in a single day on July 17, 2021, with 36,778 rides taken. “That’s fantastic and amazing,” she said.
Zair Menjivar, 18, has served for four years on Belmont Cragin Youth Council, a project of the Northwest Side Housing Center, one of the key community organizations that provided input on the Divvy station rollout and bike network plans, and he currently works part-time at Cardona’s office. He said that the youth council’s push to bring Divvy to the area was inspired by young people showing up late to programs, partly due to slow CTA buses and a lack of safe bikeways. “Before this, the nearest Divvy station was at Addison and Milwaukee. It would be absurd to walk that far from Belmont Cragin to get a bike.” The young people met with Cardona, as well as local aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Gilbert Villegas (36th) to advocate for the new stations, and they provided input on where the stations should go.
NWSHC youth organizer Jeremy Cuebas said the new investments in Belmont Cragin and Hermosa are proof that “Bikes and bikeways aren’t just for wealthier people – they’re for everyone.” Are there any concerns from residents that the cycling infrastructure could be be a sign of coming gentrification and housing displacement? “No. We’ve had meetings and roundtables, and people understand that this is for them.”
CDOT is planning to do similar bikeway grids in other neighborhoods of color that are getting Divvy this year, including Austin and North Lawndale, with input from community leaders and organizations. It would be great if this approach of creating a cohesive, useful local bike network all at once was implemented in every Chicago community that currently lacks one.