Divvy Bike Usage Soars to Strong Start in Chicago with 2,200 Members

By Kelly Bauer and Alisa Hauser  on July 10, 2013 6:41am

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 Divvy bikes in Chicago.
Divvy Bikes in Chicago
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CHICAGO — Divvy bikes continue to grow in popularity, with the number of registered users jumping from 1,500 on June 24 to 2,200 as of Monday.

The bikes are convenient, said Andrew McMillan, 21, and Katrina Cain, 24, of Texas. They said they planned to use the bikes to ride along Lake Shore Drive on Tuesday, but they were "kind of afraid of riding them on the street."

Cain said the service is attractive because it's cheap and cool. Cyclists can buy passes for $7 that allow for unlimited trips of less than 30 minutes during a 24-hour period, or pay $75 for an annual membership, with fees added for any trip longer than a half-hour.

City Transportation Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly said the Fullerton Avenue and Cannon Drive stations were used 123 times Sunday, and the Millennium Park station was used 184 times. The Michigan and Pearson locations were used 217 times. Saturday alone saw a total of 3,000 Divvy bike trips.

"That's high for a system that's one week old," Kubly said. "When it's up and running this time of year next year, we would hope to be around five trips per day per bike. We are thrilled. It took us a year to hit these numbers in D.C."

The racks have come with some problems, though. Sharon Hurn, 46, of Lincoln Square, was already late for work when she couldn't get her Divvy bike to dock at a station on North Michigan Avenue. She tried five docks before the bike clicked into place.

"It was hard to return and figure out the locking mechanism, but other than that it was fine," Hurn said.

Some stations have filled up, leaving no place to return bikes, or cyclists have experienced other technical problems.

On Thursday, a Divvy van driver met a cyclist at a station on Pierce Avenue because the station was full and he couldn't dock his bike. Typically, though, if a station is full, cyclists can request 15 more minutes to take the bike to another station with docking spots.

The driver, Chris, who did not want his last name used, said the reason all the spots were full was because Wicker Park is a popular destination, and many people go there to dock their bikes but don't depart from there.

The station at Pierce Avenue appeared to have been out of order most of the weekend, with a  handwritten message scrawled on duct tape informing riders that it could only accept key passes on Thursday. The station was unable to process an attempt to use the bikes Sunday.

Kubly said the Wicker Park station at Pierce and Damen avenues was not working because the credit card machine had been "bricked" and it could not be served because of the holiday.

"Periodically, with credit card users, the machine can get bricked, where if some transaction issue is making it think credit card fraud, it will brick out," Kubly said. "It stops and does not accept new transactions until the credit card reader is reset."

Ankur Thakkar, 29, a Wicker Park resident, said he was member No. 139 to join Divvy and got his key even before bikes were installed.

Thakkar said it takes him 26 minutes to bike from Downtown to the Divvy station at Pierce and Damen, and he has ridden Divvy about 15 times since program launched.

He said that people who have problems docking their bike should push in (docking) or pull (removing) from the seat rather than handlebar.

So far he has had no technical issues and said he prefers to use the Divvy bike for short "point A to B" commutes and likes it better than his road bike because he does not need to worry about docking it anywhere.

"It's nice to ride in a different way. With three speeds you can't go too fast. It's a stable ride," Thakkar said.

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