About nine months ago, Divvy bike sharing program went live in Chicago. I was thrilled with the concept of it from the initial launch, and was excited to see it quickly expand throughout the city*. Over the winter, I learned of the corporate memberships that they offer. The simplest of which was a one-time $100 start-up fee, and all employees then received $10 off of annual memberships.
Clearly, thought I, this was an easy sell to Human Resources and a quick ten dollars saved per year. Last month, they announced that they would pay for all but $30 of the membership fee. How could I pass this up? I was one of the first to register under our plan, and this was the impetus for me to finally beg for this damn weather to be nice enough for me to comfortably ride.
Yesterday, it was over 60°F when I left the office, so I hopped on a bike, and pedaled my way home. It was delightful! The bike lanes on Dearborn through downtown provided for a safe pack of riders. A quick jaunt on Clark before taking the split to go up Lincoln, and I was at the Divvy station nearest me inside of 25 minutes. Fitbit says I burned approximately 232 calories, which is just a nice addition. It took me about as much time door-to-door as it would on a slightly slower than average day taking the L. I look forward to spending many mornings and evenings atop a bicycle in the months to come.
There are a few downsides, of course. The bikes are heavy, that is for sure. At 40 pounds, they are not easily swung around. Even professional BMX riders have trouble doing anything impressive while on the bike. The three gear settings on the bicycle do not really allow for aggressive (or even fast) speeds. With my long legs and powerful strides, I would really like there to be a fourth gear or for the third gear to be tuned up a bit. I never used the first gear, preferring to start in second, and quickly ticked up to third before even getting through an intersection. In spite of this, the gear changes were completely smooth, and I never had even a hint that I might be stressing the machine. Some people are having a Not In My Backyard reaction to the system, but personally I think they can just get over it.
While riding the bike, I found myself thinking of a niche market of lightweight, collapsible accessories waiting to happen. Certainly a bag tailored for the front rack would be useful, as would a rear rack that could snap onto the seat post. It would make it viable for simple grocery shopping.
At the end of the day, it was a great ride, and I am very glad that I have an annual membership. With any luck, I may be able to convince some of my nearby coworkers to also grab the perk, and we can ride to and from work together.
Footnote: Chicago is a very segregated city; it is not something to be proud of, but it is the reality. “Throughout the city” for a white, middle-class resident pretty much just means the Loop, and all neighborhoods north of there. The west and south side just do not exist in my regular travels in the city. The city, when rolling out Divvy, seemed to target these neighborhoods the most. I cannot find anything that points to whether this has changed with the Phase 2 roll outs, or if the trend continues.