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Divvy Stations, Berteau Greenway a Boon to Bicycling in 47th Ward

By Patty Wetli | August 23, 2013 7:00am
 Divvy bikes have debuted in Lincoln Square.
Divvy Lincoln Square
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Divvy up, Lincoln Square, the city's bike-sharing program has arrived.

The neighborhood's first Divvy stations were open for riders Thursday, with five set to be in position by the end of the weekend, according to Bill Higgins, transportation specialist for the 47th Ward office.

Audrey Aziyeo was among the first to rent one of the distinctive blue bikes from the Western Brown Line Divvy station, using it to pedal along with dinner date Mike Farrell, who has a bike of his own.

The couple rode to a restaurant in Lakeview, where Aziyeo docked her Divvy, and then she picked up another bike for the return trip to Lincoln Square.

"At first I was a little nervous," she said. "But I felt comfortable and safe."

"It's a great idea," Farrell added. "It makes sense to go from place to place."

Mark Mitchell of Lincoln Square is already a repeat Divvy customer, despite being a bike owner himself.

"One time I used it to get from the 'L' to the Field Museum," he said. "I've been pleasantly surprised by how convenient it is."

On Thursday evening, Mitchell was picking up a Divvy at the Western Avenue station on the way to meet his brother and nephews for dinner.

"They'll give me a ride home," he said, "so I just need to get there."

Riders can opt for either a $7 24-hour pass or a $75 annual membership. Both provide users with an unlimited number of 30-minute rides (Divvy is not intended for daylong treks) for the duration of the pass.

Ultimately the city expects to install 400 Divvy stations and more than 4,000 bikes, which will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) has been a vocal proponent of Divvy, ponying up money from his discretionary budget to bring more stations to his ward. Eventually there will be 22 stations.  He's even posted a photo of his Divvy bike key (member No. 118) on Facebook.

Though Divvy has met with some resistance from business owners and residents of other neighborhoods, Higgins said, "I don't see anything like that happening here."

The ward office worked closely with the Chicago Department of Transportation to choose Divvy locations and saw final drawings for the placement of most stations, he said.

On social media, there's been little objection to Divvy as a concept. Instead, chatter has mainly focused on the need to educate drivers and cyclists about the rules of sharing the road.

"Can you please provide cycling safety guides at Divvy stations? Maybe require a short test similar to the rules of the road?" one resident posted on Facebook.

Higgins said the ward office has been exploring outreach options, including at street festivals, to inform cyclists and drivers of their mutual responsibilities.

With more casual cyclists jumping on Divvy's saddles, safe cycling routes have been a priority for the ward office, Higgins said.

To that end, the start of construction this week on the long-awaited Berteau Greenway has been a case of particularly good timing.

The greenway on Berteau Avenue includes a number of measures aimed at slowing auto traffic and creating a more welcoming environment for all of the street's users: drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Its most significant feature is a dedicated contra-flow bike lane for eastbound cyclists in the road's one-way sections, creating an east-west bike path between Clark Street and Lincoln Avenue on a relatively quiet residential street.

"I think it's a really big benefit," said Higgins. "We don't need more bikes on Montrose or Irving Park."

Major work on the greenway — including the resurfacing of Berteau after a recent water main replacement project — should be completed by late September, Higgins said.

For those interested in checking out Divvy, the first stations located in the 47th Ward can be found at:

• Western Brown Line station (Western and Leland avenues)

• Sulzer Library (Lincoln and Leavitt avenues)

• Irving Park Road at Ravenswood Avenue

• Montrose and Ravenswood avenues

• Damen and Leland avenues