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Divvy Late Fees Top $4 Million As More Than A Million Rides Go Too Long

By Alisa Hauser | May 3, 2017 5:19am
 Divvy cyclists peddle around the city.
Divvy cyclists peddle around the city.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — Since Chicago's bike-sharing system Divvy began almost four years ago, users of the sky blue cruisers took nearly 10.7 million trips.

Not all of the riders completed their journeys within the allotted 30-minute limit.

Twelve percent of all Divvy trips to date exceeded the time window that riders must check the bikes back in to avoid "usage" or penalty fees, Divvy says.

More specifically, 8.8 percent (942,630) of all trips went over by 30 minutes, 2.2 percent (235,494) went over by 60 minutes and 1 percent (112,256) passed the 90-minute mark.

Most of the penalty trips — some 83 percent — were taken by people who bought a 24-hour pass, a popular option for tourists. The rest were taken by annual members, of which there are more than 34,000.

Divvy spokesman Elliot Greenberger said annual members, who pay a yearly fee of $99, have average trips of 12 minutes, while the average trip by 24-hour-pass users, who pay $9.95, is 30 minutes.

"More than 9 out of 10 Divvy trips are for short rides under 30 minutes. Many of those riders are using Divvy to get to and from work, or to get around their neighborhood to do errands or meet friends. But you also have more leisurely riders who will keep their bikes out longer in order to fully experience Chicago and the lakefront," Greenberger said.

Greenberger added, "Even so, Divvy can still be an affordable option if you take trips longer than 30 minutes."

The penalty fee, which Divvy calls a usage fee, for going over 30 minutes is $1.50 for annual members and $2 for nonmembers. The fees double and triple in 30-minute increments.

Greenberger declined to share the amount of money that Divvy has brought in from time limit fees, though he acknowledged a DNAinfo calculation of a little more than $4 million was close, but an underestimate due to the way trips over 90 minutes are calculated.

Some riders incurred more than the $6 or $8 over 90-minute penalty for members and day pass users, respectively, but DNAinfo did not have those trip times.

Alex Hartzler, an annual Divvy member, said he's taken 817 trips since joining Divvy in June 2013. Twenty-eight — or 3.4 percent — of Hartzler's trips resulted in late fees amounting to $85.50.

The 32-year-old Hartzler, a lawyer, said paying the late fee is still cheaper than taking the CTA, which charges $2 to $2.25 for a one-way bus or "L" trip, respectively.

"For example, if I'm biking from the Loop to Lincoln Square, I know I'm going to get charged, but I figure the $1.50 charge is less than a CTA ride so it's still a deal," Hartzler said.

By way of another example, this DNAinfo reporter, who joined Divvy in July 2013, has taken 758 trips, with 82 — or 10.8 percent of her trips — over the allotted time. The late fees were $154.50. 

With $324 in annual membership fees — $75 spent in 2013, 2014 and 2015; and $99 in 2016, after the annual fee was hiked — a total of $478.50 was spent for 758 trips. The reporter calculated that her average cost per trip is 60 cents.

 Marcelo Marcos said that Ariadna's entry into city cycling was through Divvy.
Marcelo Marcos said that Ariadna's entry into city cycling was through Divvy.
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Courtesy of Marcelo Marcos

For riders who expect a trip to go beyond 30 minutes, or if they encounter a full docking station where there is no room to return a bike, a 15-minute extension can be requested at the station kiosk.

"This would allow [a rider] to find a nearby dock without incurring additional usage fees," Greenberger said.

The time limit has become a barrier to using Divvy bikes, maintains Yasmeen Schuller, president of The Chainlink, an online cyclist community.

She said the "Divvy shuffle" to meet the time limits and situations where full Divvy stations that prevent riders from checking in "will make a normal ride more complicated with unnecessary hoops to jump through."

"Maybe this is why I've seen so many people cruising at an impressively fast clip on their Divvy. They need to rush to their destination to avoid the fees," Schuller said.

Divvy member Marcelo Marcos said he's taken more than 580 Divvy trips in the last 18 months since moving to Chicago and has paid $11.50 in late fees. Marcos said he prefers his own bike to Divvy for longer rides.

"I have absolutely no problem with the fees or the timing. However, I use Divvy in a very limited fashion. I use Divvy for a 1.5 mile commute to and from work and to go out around the neighborhood with my wife," he said.

He called Divvy "hands down the most successful way of getting my wife to bike."

"I've been dating her since we were teens, and bike dates always ended up in frustration. Finally Divvy got her biking more, so I am forever grateful," Marcos said.

In Divvy's most recent member survey, from April, 54 percent of respondents said they have a personal bike (other than Divvy) available to them regularly, Greenberger said.

To date, Divvy riders have pedaled more than 21 million miles.