Divvy, the new rental bicycle that Chicago's transportation chief predicts will become a popular "bike taxi" option for short trips, made its debut for test rides at Bike the Drive on Sunday.
The Divvy show-and-tell during the once-a-year morning closure of Lake Shore Drive to motorized vehicles was intended to build excitement about the bike-sharing concept, which is growing in the United States.
Memberships will go on sale this week for the Divvy bicycle-sharing program when the link divvybikes.com is officially launched, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
The three-speed bikes, painted "Chicago blue," are set to become available starting mid- to late June in the downtown area, with 75 bike-share docking stations operating by the end of the month, CDOT officials said. Each station will have about 10 bikes.
The $22 million program, paid for mainly by federal grants, will expand each month, totaling 4,000 bikes at 400 solar-powered locations in city neighborhoods by spring 2014, officials said.
Annual memberships cost $75, and members will be issued a personal key to unlock bikes from any Divvy station, officials said. Daily passes, valid for 24-hour periods, are priced at $7. Both allow for unlimited trips up to 30 minutes each. An additional fee will be charged for using a bike for more than a half-hour.
Memberships can be purchased online later this week, officials said. Corporate memberships also will be offered, as well as memberships to community organizations, so that employees and other individuals can jump on a Divvy bike to go to meetings, make deliveries and accomplish other tasks, officials said.
The idea is to take a bike here and leave it there to complete a trip or use a bicycle instead of other transportation choices that may be slower, more expensive or add to traffic congestion, officials said.
The first 75 bike-share stations will be located near CTA and Metra rail stations and other high-traffic spots, city officials said.
The initial bike-share installations will be near Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, Metra's LaSalle Street station, Millennium Station and Millennium Park, CTA "L" stations, Daley Plaza, Willis Tower, Federal Plaza, Navy Pier, the Museum Campus and the McCormick Place Metra station, according to a list provided by CDOT.
About 380 of the planned 400 locations are plotted on a map accompanying this story. Officials are holding off on selecting the final locations until receiving more feedback from residents and community groups, City Hall spokesman Bill McCaffrey said.
The heavy-duty bikes feature a step-through, one-size-fits-all design; upright handlebars with the gear-changer on the grip and wide, adjustable seats for comfort; hand brakes; a chain guard to protect clothing; and a basket with an elastic cord for storing items. The bikes also will be outfitted with headlights and taillights that illuminate automatically as the bike is pedaled, officials said.
"They are super comfortable to ride," Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said. "You can wear a suit and feel totally fine, like you are not going to get it dirty."
The Divvy program is managed by Alta Bicycle Share. The bike-share program was originally supposed to start last year but has been delayed due to "infrastructure issues," company and city officials said.
A goal of the program is to leverage the public transit system to help commuters divide their ride to complete the first or last few miles of their trip on a Divvy bike, officials said.
"Unlike many other sharing systems, such as Zipcar, where you must return to the location where you picked up your ride, Divvy is point to point," Klein said. "So you are not married to a Divvy bike all day. It's like a bicycle taxi."
Bike-sharing will increase the number of bicycles into the traffic mix and, over time, help make Chicago streets safer by changing the behavior of drivers, especially speeding, Klein predicted.
"Bike-sharing and more bike lanes will rebalance the roadways, I would say, in favor of people, versus in favor of traffic careening through the Loop and our neighborhoods," Klein said.
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