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Should Divvy Warn Tourists To Stay Off Major Roadways?

By Mauricio Peña | November 25, 2014 12:39pm
 Divvy launched in Chicago in June 2013, and the weekend accident that left a medical student seriously injured is the first major injury reported of its kind for the bike share company. But it is at least the third incident in the last two months in which a divvy rider has been seen riding on a major roadway.
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CHICAGO — If you were new to Chicago and hopped on a Divvy bike, how easily could you discern what to do — and what not to do?

An accident over the weekend on Lake Shore Drive that left a Divvy cyclist in critical condition, who was reported by police to be drunk has triggered, conversation on social media about whether enough is being done to educate Divvy cyclists on where it's OK to ride.

Divvy launched in Chicago in June 2013, but the accident Saturday that left third-year medical student Travis Persaud critically injured is the first major injury accident for the bike-sharing company.

But it is at least the third time recently that a Divvy cyclist has been seen riding on a major roadway not intended for cyclists.

Earlier this year, a YouTube video showed a woman riding a Divvy bike north on Lake Shore Drive.

In October, Stephanie Kemen and her boyfriend saw a woman on a Divvy bike riding on the shoulder of the Dan Ryan Expy.

"We had no idea how she got on," Kemen said. "There was lighter traffic but still there was enough traffic so it wouldn't have been easy."

As they approached the cyclist, Kemen's boyfriend rolled down their car window and alerted the woman that she wasn't supposed to be there.

"She said, 'I know, I know' and looked terrified," Kemen said. "We felt bad for her. Someone had to have stopped to help her; otherwise I'm not sure how she was able to [exit.]"

Mauricio Pena says Divvy places safety responsibilities on the cyclists.

Signs at Divvy stations tell riders that "your safety is your responsibility."

They urge cyclists to obey traffic laws, dismount the bikes on sidewalks, ride with traffic and wear a helmet. The same message from the Chicago Department of Transportation is also printed on each Divvy bike.

Alta, the company that oversees Divvy operations in Chicago and other bike-sharing programs in New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston said in an email statement that its programs "promote safety via membership materials, program websites and social media."

Divvy station kiosks provide maps of the general vicinity of which streets are safe for cyclists. On the website's safety guide, Divvy urges cyclists to "use marked bike lanes or paths when available." In addition, the site states "bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout Chicago, even when no designated route exists."

But the site does not specifically point out that bikes aren't allowed on the city's expressways or on Lake Shore Drive.

Multiple calls to CDOT and the mayor's office were not returned.

Chicago Ordinance 9-52-020 states that bicycles shall not be operated on Lake Shore Drive or on any roadway where the operation has been prohibited and signs have been erected indicating such prohibition.

A spokesman for the Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit group working to improve conditions for cyclists, walkers and mass transportation riders, declined to comment on Persaud's accident, but wished him "a speedy recovery."

"We do know that after people have taken 3.1 million trips on Divvy, the safety track record of people using the bike-sharing program is excellent," alliance spokesman Ted Villaire said. "With so many new cyclists on the streets of Chicago, it’s essential that everyone observes the rules of the road. Being a careful and courteous road user — whether walking, biking or driving a car — goes a long way in keeping everyone safe."

Persaud's father, Frank Persaud, said his son, a Florida native now in a medically induced coma at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, was likely trying to cross Lake Shore Drive on his Divvy bike to get to his nearby apartment in Lakeview. He called the visiting medical student an avid cyclist.

He had been in Chicago for two months and was drinking before his accident, authorities said.

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