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“No one bikes in Chicago during the winter!” Part Three: Nice turnout for Divvy, every day

Divvy data shows thousands of rides were taken on most days in January.

6:39 AM CST on February 9, 2024

Divvy electric bike in Logan Square after a snow storm. Photo: Rob Reid

This post is sponsored by Boulevard Bikes.

A common myth posted by some Streetsblog Chicago’s facebook commenters is that there's no point in installing bike lanes here because very few or no residents cycle during the colder months. Streetsblog recently published evidence that plenty of Chicagoans will ride bikes in challenging weather if churros or polka are involved.

But West Ridge resident Ian Jantz is one of many Chicagoans who ride bikes all winter, even if there's no special reward at the end of their trip. "I can get from point A to point B a lot quicker than I can by walking or taking the bus," he said, adding that his bike commuting preference is trips under five miles.

Jantz will bike most days, sometimes just for exercise, if it’s over 20 degrees Fahrenheit and not raining or snowing. "Once you get acclimated to it after the first ten minutes or so, you feel great, as long as you’ve got a good pair of gloves and something to cover your ears."

Jantz rides Divvy during the winter, which means he never has to worry about cleaning and lubing a chain, or recharging bike lights. He shared stats tracked on the bike-share system's app which showed that he completed 27 rides and 790 minutes of cycling in January.

Screenshot of Jantz’s ride stats from the Divvy app.

Particularly in the winter, Jantz appreciates the sturdy, wide-tired Divvy bikes, which have fenders to shield the rider from rain and snow coming off of the wheels. "It will cut through the slush," he said.

Divvy was built for winter

Divvy’s 2013 procurement contract called for monthly maintenance and cleaning of the bikes, a major time-saver for members.

Performance metrics for Divvy bike inspection. Source: Chicago’s 2013 Contract with Alta Bicycle Share Inc.

But the real test of the effectiveness of Divvy's winter maintenance protocols is whether people actually use the bikes during cold weather. There's data showing that, contrary to what motorheads on Facebook say, plenty of people do ride the bikes when it's cold and/or snowy.

Analysis of January trip data posted by Divvy and daily weather stats from the National Centers for Environmental Information reveals that Divvy ridership consistently ranges from around 4,000 to 8,000 rides per day when average temperatures hover in the 30s. Rides fell to 2,059 on January 12, but that could be attributed to 4.7 inches of snowfall that day.

As the following chart demonstrates, when temperatures drop and snow falls, fewer people ride Divvy, but someone always rides. Image: Rob Reid

With a dangerous wind chill warning in effect from January 14 to January 16, few people still rode Divvy. But even on Monday January 15, when Chicago hit an average temperature of -7 °F,  (high 2 °F, low -10 °F), Divvy riders still completed 731 rides.

Jantz was not one of them, but the evidence is clear: No matter how cold or snowy it is, as long as the system is operating, plenty of people ride Divvy in the winter.

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