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The reward for expansion and electrification of Divvy is record-breaking ridership

City officials and community leaders celebrated the launch of this year’s West Side expansion at an event in North Lawndale in July. Photo: Cameron Bolton

There's good news about the rapidly expanding Divvy bike-share service. Today the Chicago Department of Transportation, which oversees the program, announced that Divvy has already broken its previous annual ridership record of 3.81 million trips, with 4 million rides taken so far this year on the blue and black bikes. And there are still 15 weeks left in 2021 to bump that number up even higher.

While that's awesome, it's not surprising. This year the bike-share system has been continuing its citywide expansion by installing new stations in the West Side communities of North Lawndale, Austin, and Belmont Cragin, in conjunction with a bikeway saturation plan for these lower-income and working-class Black and Latino neighborhoods, based on community input. Moreover, the introduction of electrical-assist bikes greatly broadened the appeal of bike-share by making it easy to cover long distances on surface roads at near-automobile speed while enjoying a zippy, less-sweaty ride. Earlier this week CDOT announced that they plan to provide Divvy service everywhere in the city by fall 2022.

New bikeways constructed or planned in North LAwndale, Austin, and Belmont Cragin. Image: CDOT
New bikeways constructed or planned in North Lawndale, Austin, and Belmont Cragin. Image: CDOT
New bikeways constructed or planned in North LAwndale, Austin, and Belmont Cragin. Image: CDOT

“We are thrilled that Chicago’s bike-share system, Divvy, is continuing to grow in popularity and size and moving steadily toward serving the entire city of Chicago,” said CDOT commissioner Gia Biagi in a statement. “The expansion of Divvy is happening in coordination with our record investments in new bikeways that are making it safer and easier for everyone to bike to the meaningful destinations in their neighborhoods.”

On top of the new annual record, this year Divvy customers have broken the single daily rides record three times, with the current daily record high of 36,853 set on August 14, despite the fact that the number of office commutes have plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, CDOT says has had its highest-ridership month, year over year, for every month so far in 2021 since March. Divvy set ew monthly ridership records were set in July and August with over 800,000 rides each month and summer ridership was up 30 percent from summer 2020, when far fewer work places and recreation venues were open than now.

This year's system expansion includes 107 new "e-stations," bike rack installations that are suitable for securing the lock-anywhere electric bikes, in a 35-square mile area of the West Side. (Divvy is no longer buying the blue non-electric bikes, which can only be parked at the older style of station, so as blue cycles wear out and are replaced with black ones, the system will eventually become all-electric.) Divvy is adding 3,500 black bikes this year, in addition to the 3,500 rolled out last year, for a total of 16,500 bikes and more than 800 stations.

Initiatives to make the Divvy system more equitable include waiving the usual per-minute use fees and non-station parking surcharges for the electric bikes on most of the South and West sides (South of Pershing Road, 3900 S., and Western Avenue, 2400 W.), plus the Divvy for Everyone discounted membership program. The program, which offers one-time $5 annual memberships to Chicagoans making $35,310 or less, currently has 2,500 members, more than ever before.

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