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Confirmed: Millennium Park bike station will now only serve cops instead of commuters

Bike police patrolling River North during the George Floyd protests in May 2020. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago's $3.2 million Millennium Park bike station opened in 2004 thanks to a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant. Federal officials awarded the money to our city with the intention of encouraging bike commuting as a strategy to help relieve traffic cams and reduce air pollution.

Almost 20 years later, Streetsblog today got word from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which oversees the park, that longstanding rumors are true. The bike station, which closed last September due to slow business during the pandemic, is being converted into solely a police facility.

The bike station. Photo: Steven Vance
The bike station. Photo: Steven Vance
The bike station. Photo: Steven Vance

The bike station, which offered indoor bicycle parking, locker rooms, repair, and rental services, was originally run by tour company Bike and Roll Chicago. The building also provided some space for a downtown Chicago Police Department bike patrol.

In late May 2021, the Chicago-based mobility operations company Shift Transit took over operations. However, the work-from-home era was a terrible time to launch a new downtown business catering to commuters, and Shift struggled to make ends meet. The station was permanently closed on September 30 of 2022.

A few weeks before the closure, a bike station member told Streetsblog she heard secondhand that the police presence at the bike station building would be increased as part of the change.

Millennium Park had seen additional security measures since May 14, 2022, when a large gathering of young people tragically ended with the shooting death of Seandell Holliday, 16. The following day Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced unaccompanied minors would no longer be permitted in Millennium Park after 6 p.m. between Thursdays and Sundays. The park also got metal detectors and security checkpoints.

Prior to Hub312 closing, DCASE deputy commissioner Jamey Lundblad confirmed in a statement that the bike station was going out of business. “Due to business conditions during and coming out of the pandemic, HUB312 will be permanently closing… DCASE is currently exploring options to determine the best use of this space.”

Lundblad didn’t respond to follow-up questions about whether a new concessionaire could potentially reopen the bike center, or whether the space might be used to house a larger police presence in the future.

CPD News Affairs didn’t respond to a question about the possibility of an expanded police presence at the station either.

In response to an interview request, Shift chief managing officer Heili Toome sent simply re-sent the short DCASE statement.

Last Tuesday, transportation planner and researcher Rudy Faust wondered out loud about the subject on Twitter, inspiring us to check in with DCASE again.

Does anyone know if we are just giving the only pubic bike facility of its kind in the city to the CPD? The CPD can use district stations for storing bikes, and have nearly limitless funds. via @StreetsblogCHI

— Rudy Faust (@RudyFaust) March 21, 2023

This time Lundblad was much more forthcoming. "Yes, we can confirm that the cycle center in Millennium Park will now be a home for the Chicago Police Department Bicycle Patrol, which previously held space in the lower level of the building," he said via email. "This move will enhance security in Millennium Park, the #1 attraction in the Midwest, and provide an increased police presence in the central business district. The former tenant, HUB312 operated by Shift Transit, offered bike rentals, bike parking, and more — but we mutually agreed to end their contract last year, finding it was not sustainable as a business enterprise due to decreased demand for these amenities in this specific location. The city of Chicago remains committed to making cycling a safe, accessible, and popular transportation option for all residents."

CDOT spokesperson Erica Schroeder did not immediately respond to a question about whether this new use conflicts with the intention of the federal CMAQ grant.

"Many volunteers and organizers at Chicago, Bike Grid Now! would like to see continued efforts to make Millennium Park accessible by bicycle," said confounder Rony Islam. "Increased police presence in Millennium Park will not enhance the safety of the park and will not make travel by bicycle safer in the area. Current access to Millennium and Grant Parks does not prioritize pedestrians or people on bikes."

Most cyclists accessed the bike station via multilane Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. Image: Google Maps
Most cyclists accessed the bike station, located at the northeast corner of Millennium Park, via multilane Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. Image: Google Maps
Most cyclists accessed the bike station via multilane Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. Image: Google Maps

"HUB312 should continue to serve the cycling community in some capacity, and investments in street infrastructure should be undertaken to increase cycling from neighborhoods to these parks, and the Loop," Islam added. "Turning a cycling amenity into a police branch is a step in the wrong direction."

This news is surely not going to sit well with many other local bike advocates and police reform activists. We've reached out to several more cycling advocacy organizations for reactions and will update this piece if we hear from them.

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