Divvy bike rentals

Divvy bike rentals (Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune / October 21, 2013)

Chicago is one of the worst cities in the country to drive a car, according to the financial website NerdWallet.

The site analyzed data on the cost of owning and maintaining a car, weather trends and how often commuters face delays, and put Chicago right behind New York City, Detroit and San Francisco.

Chicago's drivers face bad weather, with an average of 119 days of rain or snow per year; long commute times, with 51 annual hours of delays per commuter; and high gas prices, with an average of $4.12 per gallon, according to the analysis.

Chicago also ranked high on the list for its average insurance premium, which is $1,243.52, according to NerdWallet. City parking also is costly. It could cost as much as $35 a day and $289 a month, according to another NerdWallet analysis. The city also charges potentially steep fines for parking violations and city stickers, which cost $85 for small cars and must be renewed annually.

The analysis comes during the city's annual celebration of Chicago Bike Week, which is meant to encourage more commuters to ride bikes to work and recreationally.

In contrast to the costs of owning a car, new cyclists typically can find a ready-to-ride used bicycle on Craigslist for between $50 and $300. The costs of repairs and maintenance for a bicycle generally are much lower than cars. Flat inner-tubes, for example, can be fixed for between $10 and $20. And cyclists don't need insurance to commute.

A membership to Divvy, Chicago's fledgling bikeshare program, costs $75 for the year and requires no maintenance.

Despite lower costs, extreme weather is no easier on cyclists than it is on drivers. Last winter, Divvy shut down operations for several days due to unfavorable conditions, and total rides taken dropped from a high of 203,000 in September to just 25,031 in January, according to a report by Streetsblog Chicago.

And while cyclists in Chicago don't face quite the same traffic delays that drivers and CTA riders do, they face the added concerns of sharing the road with motorists and CTA buses.

If biking isn't your thing, an unlimited CTA pass costs $100 per month.

Like bike commuters, CTA riders have to deal with cold temperatures and snow, which can add to commute time during the winter. And frequent construction can lengthen commutes all year round.