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Divvy Stations Needed in Portage Park, Business Groups Say

By Heather Cherone | December 16, 2013 7:31am
  Divvy could help attract more shoppers to two struggling retail areas in Portage Park, officials said.
Divvy in Portage Park
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PORTAGE PARK — Far Northwest Side residents who want to rent one of the now-ubiquitous sky-blue Divvy bikes close to home are out of luck — the closest station is in Logan Square at Kedzie Avenue.

But with the launch of a new website last week to solicit suggestions for the locations of the next 175 Divvy stations set to be installed in 2014, the Six Corners Business Association hopes to put the struggling shopping district on the map.

"Divvy works in other neighborhoods and Downtown," said Six Corners Business Association Executive Director Ed Bannon. "There's no reason why it won't work in Portage Park."

The new Divvy stations are intended to expand the bike-sharing system into new neighborhoods as well as fill in gaps, Divvy spokesman Elliot Greenburger said.

Divvy has 300 stations with about 11,000 registered members, but no stations on the Far South Side, West Side and Far North Side, according to the city.

Divvy, which is is owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation and operated by Alta Bike Share Inc., charges $75 for a one-year membership or $7 for unlimited daily rides of up to 30 minutes.

The Six Corners Business Association, which has been working to install bike corrals in an effort to attract cyclists to Irving Park Road, Cicero and Milwaukee avenues, believes making Six Corners more pedestrian-friendly will spur the economic development that the area has been missing for several decades.

"We need to balance the two modes of transportation," Bannon said, adding that 10 bikes can be stowed in one parking spot for a car.

In a Facebook post designed to drum up support for a Divvy station in Portage Park, the Six Corners Business Association said it is working to make the shopping district, once the premier city shopping destination outside the Loop, one of the most bike-friendly areas in the city.

Bannon said he was pleasantly surprised that the initiative drew almost two-dozen likes and an equal number of positive comments. He said plans to use those comments when applying to Divvy for stations in and around Portage Park.

"The Northwest Side is not exactly known as a bike haven," Bannon said, but that might be changing, he added.

During the 2013 participatory budget process in the 45th Ward, which includes Six Corners, projects to make the area more friendly for two-wheelers drew a significant amount of support, according to Owen Brugh, chief of staff to Ald. John Arena.

"Divvy stations at Six Corners outside Sears and on the [CTA] Blue Line at Irving Park Road are no brainers," Bannon said. "We're going to make a strong case."

Most people who shop at Six Corners live about a mile away, making for an easy bike trip, or take the CTA to the shopping district, Bannon said.

"Divvy would work great in both cases," Bannon said.

Melissa Basilone, one of the founders of the Irving Austin Business District, said she would love to see Divvy in her neck of the woods. Basilone and her husband, Joe, own Thrift & Thrive, a resale shop.

"Our customers complain all the time about parking," near Irving Park Road and Austin Avenue, Basilone said. "We'd love to have Divvy here to give them another option."

Divvy could also help the small businesses in the area, which include Regulus Coffee House and the Patio Theater.

"It would be fantastic," Basilone said. "It would really help the small business."