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Small Shops on Divvy: Less Parking But Potentially More Business

By Alisa Hauser | August 2, 2013 12:18pm | Updated on August 2, 2013 12:30pm
 As of Aug. 1, there are 117 Divvy bike share stations on the streets of Chicago and sidewalks.
Divvy Bike Stations
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CHICAGO —  With annual memberships inching toward 4,000 and more than 80,000 trips taken as of Thursday, it's clear Divvy bikes are being used. But are the riders of the powder-blue bikes making a dent in the local economy?

In late June, a Divvy station was installed in front of Wicker's Park Moon Voyage boutique. Since then, "at least three purchases" of clothing have been made by Divvy users at the shop at 2010 W. Pierce St, said Moon Voyage owner Susie Lee.

Lee described Divvy users as a mix of "very touristy people as well as locals."

Lee's neighbor, Penny's Noodle Shop, 1542 N. Damen Ave., promoted the station on its Facebook Page shortly after the station was installed.

 A Divvy bike station at 1802 W. Division St. in front of Wicker Park's Smoke Daddy displaced a loading zone that was used by the BBQ restaurant.
A Divvy bike station at 1802 W. Division St. in front of Wicker Park's Smoke Daddy displaced a loading zone that was used by the BBQ restaurant.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

"People are using [the station] quite a bit but I haven't noticed yet if it's impacted our business," said Gus Chiamopoulos, owner of Penny's.

Meanwhile, Edith Sixta, a worker at A Plus Dry Cleaners at 953 W. Willow St. in Lincoln Park, said there's been "no new business, no new customers" as a result of a Divvy station being located on a sidewalk in front the cleaner's loading zone.

"My boss was complaining, 'Why did they put the bikes in front of here?' They wondered why it couldn't be in another place. It's a loading zone and customers have to walk around the station," Sixta said.

As of Thursday, there were 117 Divvy bike share stations in the city, up from 70 stations when the program began one month ago. Officials say they plan to have 300 stations installed by the end of the summer.

Scott Kubly, CDOT deputy commissioner, said the majority of the 117 stations are on sidewalks, with 37 stations currently located on the street, where free or metered parking and loading zones used to be.

At Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street, a Divvy station takes up a spot which used to be five free parking spacesKubly said the Milwaukee/Wood station sees an average of 37 Divvy trips per day.

Smoke Daddy, at 1804 W. Division St. in Wicker Park, lost a loading zone in front of its business, which now houses a Divvy station that averages about 48 customers per day, according to Kubly.

Mike Dunlay, general manager of Smoke Daddy, said the BBQ restaurant was using the loading zone for deliveries, and for loading and unloading its catering van, but now uses an alley instead.

Dunlay said using the side alley "has been effective only because it's closer [to the restaurant]" but added he doesn't think the "neighbors and people trying to get through the alley appreciate it as much."

Josh Rutherford, owner of Smoke Daddy, said, "I haven't formed an opinion yet [on Divvys]. I think it's pretty cool, but I am not sure of the cost benefit since it takes up parking."

Kubly said that in cases when bike stations take up metered spaces, the city needs to find alternative spots for metered spaces run by LAZ, the private firm that manages paid street parking in Chicago.

"The swap out is 1 for 1, " Kubly said, adding that each Divvy station takes up "about two parking spaces."

"A parking space serves much fewer people in a typical day, probably no more than five per day for a metered spot, fewer for unmetered spot," Kubly said.

When asked how many spaces are taken up by bike share stations relative to all of the parking available in the city, Kubly said, "It's a fraction of a percent."

Divvy's parent company, Alta Bike Share, will be responsible for snow removal from around the stations, said Elliot Greenberger, Divvy's director of marketing.

Greenberger said the response from the business community to the stations has been "overwhelmingly positive" and he's been monitoring social media where "riders are excited that stations are close to certain businesses."

Loop resident John Bracken recently tweeted, "Wonder when businesses will start lobbying for bikes: There are 3 grocery stores near me. One has @DivvyBikes nearby. Decision made."

With a station near his shop, Jordan Ruiz, assistant manager of Amato's Pizza at 953 Willow St. in Lincoln Park  — the same building as A Plus Dry Cleaners  said he's been "surprised" by the number of people using the bikes.

"A fair amount of them, more than I would expect," Ruiz said.

Ruiz said people have come into Amato's to eat and asked him if they could "get a bike" from the restaurant.

"I tell them it's not us. It's an independent city thing," Ruiz said.