BikeShare: ‘Shucking and Jiving’ In The Urban Cycling Ranks

Background Reading


Every now and then a ChainLinker hits the “nail on the head”. This is difficult to accomplish because the Urban Cycling Community has a great an aversion to facing the cold harsh light of reality as does any GOP Tea Party-type. This is a crowd which like the GOP thinks that “compromise” is as dirty a word as “challenges” or “short-comings“. They simply cannot help themselves. Owning up to reality is considered a distraction from ultimate success. Clearly we are a bit like the Russians were with respect to Afghanistan. Being afraid to face the truth is the greatest sign of weakness imaginable.

Reply by David crZven 10.6 3 hours ago
No, not a pioneer. But every City is different and if you approach every city like they are the same, things will not necessarily work. In New York, for example, they decided to go with 45 minutes instead of 30. New York certainly has lots of “unique challenges” and thus needed more time. I personally would have preferred a 45 minute time in Chicago as well as, well, distances can be longer and traffic can be worse. For example, DC doesn’t have grade crossings and doesn’t have bridges that go UP. How long does a Bridge opening take? Is the nature of Grant Park/Millenisum Park being on the “edge” of the City make it different than the Mall which can be approached in DC from just about every direction? Does the fact that Chicago has worse streets than DC and New York make a difference? What about the fact that people in Chicago are, uh, fatter on the average than DC? The bicycles, at least in New York, have a contractual 250 LB weight limit. Mind you, they say that they won’t enforce it, but if that’s close to design weight, and Chicago has much worse streets, maybe the breakdown experience will be worse? As for “theft” of bicycles, that’s really not an issue for the users of the system. It is unlikely that they will be “stolen” while being ridden. I am more concerned, based on historic precedent, that they will be stolen for scrap metal if the DIVVY locations are not carefully policed. We have had some very “active” scrap thieves in Chicago that have stolen neighborhood signs, air conditioning units and the like. We still have some “industry” in the area and thus a more active scrap business. Not so much for DC.

I think it can and will work, but lets not pretend that all of the issues are resolved. They are not.

Jeff Schneider said:
In general, it seems that people are forgetting that Chicago is not a pioneer with this system. We don’t really have to speculate about how it will work, since there is lot of experience already from other cities. We can read about that and judge whether we want to participate or not.

(RedEye illustration )

(RedEye illustration )

I guess the truth hurts sometimes. One particularly banal denizen of the ChainLink Forum who considers himself Lord Snarkiness (I try to refer to him whenever possible as “Rhymes with Puppie“) was chastened by another in this exchange:

Reply by Kevin C 22 hours ago
So is the source of your disappointment the fact that the dissenting opinion came from a lawyer, the fact that the neutral to critical perspective came from a Trib reporter normally “friendly” to bike initiatives, or the fact that the opinions expressed accurately address the potential shortcomings of Divvy?

Duppie 13.5185km said:
It is always interesting to see where the Trib find these experts, in this case Mr Choslowsky “a bicycle-riding lawyer”. Does he disburse legal advice while riding a bike?
The article is a shame. I generally like Mr. Hilkevitch’s reporting.

There is a time honored drill ritually performed by this band of goons, it is reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies. First they bring out their “groupies” to let you know that even the girls don’t like what you have to say:

Reply by Michelle Stenzel 21 hours ago
“Hundreds of excited citizens sign up in advance for bike share in first few hours, with absolutely no glitches reported” wrote no reporter, ever. Except for the Streetsblog guys, of course. Especially John.

You can almost hear her eyes roll languidly as she looks over at “her hero” and tries to let him know that she is available (for consultation). The rejoinder is apropos:

Reply by Kevin C 21 hours ago
John’s not a reporter. He’s a cheerleader.

Talk about getting “bitch slapped“! Our “groupie” recovers enough to say:

Reply by Michelle Stenzel 21 hours ago
He’s very diplomatic, and we need all kinds out there to get the job done.

That’s the female equivalent of when a male says of a blind date that “she seems quit intelligent and has a wonderful character“. Nothing wrong with either trait, but it comes off as a “backhanded compliment“.

Reply by Kevin C 20 hours ago
Diplomacy is not a good trait for a reporter. It’s a good trait for an advocate. On a semi-related note, when we “get the job done” what exactly do you want cycling in Chicago to look like?

Ok. So the remainder of the sissy hissy fit is a bit boring. But that thing about being a “cheerleader” had me envisioning our “diplomat” in a cheerleading outfit with ChainLink pom-poms waving wildly about and a “fake tattoo on his inner thigh” that reads “Urban Cycling Cheerleader“. Not a pretty site.

Reply by Justin B Newman 8 hours ago
Trademarks of an opinion piece:

  • “exceeding 30 minutes on a three-speed Divvy bike will get expensive faster than most people can pedal.”
  • “But the Divvy contract offers this bitter pill”
  • “But already, skeptics are questioning the cost and whether bicycle sharing is the next parking meter deal. The skeptics also question whether bicycle sharing stands even a chance of being as popular in Chicago as it has been in Washington, on the West Coast and in other metropolitan areas.”
  • “Will businessmen put their briefcases in the basket on a Divvy bike and ride to meetings, risking sweat stains on expensive suits just to save a couple of dollars on a taxicab and possibly save a tree from pollution?”

These are appropriate to an opinion piece. For news, he might have attempted to answer these questions:

  • How do the over-use penalties apply to other bike sharing programs around the country?
  • In other places, what percentage of use results in a penalty?
  • Do other bike sharing programs have similar terms of service? What about fitness facilities? Is there any basis for the language to be called a “bitter pill”?
  • Who are the skeptics? What did they say? Have there been studies done to back the assertion that it will be less successful than in comparable cities?
  • Are bicycles used in comparable cities (including by climate) by suited business men? Do they routinely have sweat stains when they complete their rides?

That would have been a news story…

Ok. So now we have someone from the Urban Cycling Community who has given us concrete examples of what constitutes an “opinion piece“. What is important here is that we have now to apply this standard to anything that Ron Burke or John Greenfield have to say in rejoinder.

The ‘High Priests’ Decide To Respond

Reply by Active Transportation Alliance 5 hours ago
We’ve got a blog up on the Active Trans site responding to some of points raised in the Trib piece mentioned on this thread. Thought some folks here might enjoy reading it – check it out:…

Jim Merrell, Active Trans

Reply by John Greenfield 3 hours ago
And here’s Streetsblog Chicago’s less-polite rebuttal to the Hilkevitch piece:…

Reply by John Greenfield 2 hours ago
Oh, I’m not afraid to criticize the city when appropriate:…
Fortunately, when it comes to transportation, there’s been a lot to cheer about with this administration.

Well I just went and got some buttered popcorn for this “cat fight“. The problem here is that when StreetsBlog and Active Transportation Alliance took Ventra cards to task as excessive in their fees they did so with parodies like these:

Fair is only fair when it comes to the darling projects of the Urban Cycling Community. And if we use Justin B Newman’s measure these are not news stories but rather “opinion pieces“. So I guess the worst that anyone can say is that everybody appears to be offering opinions. And last time I checked as with anal orifices we all got ’em.

The bottom line is that around the world the experiences with BikeShare have been uneven at best. Normally if this were the military there would be a “de-briefing” to discover why tactics used in one country failed in another during time of war. But bicyclists are basically anarchists looking for anything and everything to “demonstrate” for or against. These are not people given to cold hard staring down of facts. They either act like “cheerleaders” or “lapdogs” or both.

But you really cannot blame them if their leadership and news sources are wimpy. And that is exactly what is going on here. We need less “Mad Men” and more “Criminal Minds” activity in our ranks. But frankly with the likes of Ron Burke and John Greenfield playing “hide the sausage” with rest of the Urban Cycling Community nothing very meaningful is likely to emerge. We’ll get lots and lots of happy talk and the occasional attempt at a reverse “bitch slap” but beyond that it will be “business as usual“.

The 'Little People' Speak

The ‘Little People’ Speak

Cracks In The ‘Tablet of Talking Points’

Reply by Shaun Jacobsen 6 hours ago

I also wanted to add that it would be wonderful if the city someday added an option to go up to 45 minutes free instead of 30, as in New York. You can also do this on Vélib’ in Paris if you pay more per year (39 € instead of 29). It would be a good option for getting to further neighborhoods.

With my current road bike, which is pretty quick, it takes me about 45 minutes to get from Union Station to my apartment in Uptown at 5pm. Sometimes I’ll stop at the grocery store on the way back but on those days where I don’t ride in to work, it’d be nice to be able to grab a bike, ride to Lakeview for groceries, then hop on a bus. That’s just a personal scenario. Anyone else think that 30 minutes will eventually be too short for some trips once the system expands, or is that just me being selfish with the “sharing” aspect? 😛

One more thing, on the sharing note…. do we have any idea how many bikes will be at each dock? From what I’ve heard some of the docks in more popular areas might “dry up” pretty quickly, especially since we’re a more “centralized” city in that a ton of employment is in the Loop and the imbalance might be high. I know they re-balance the bikes, but how quickly?

When Moses brought down the ‘Tablet‘ on which the Commandments were written you probably saw a few of wags in the crowd begin to question each of them. That seems to be happening this AM as I revisit the thread at ChainLink thread responding to the blog entry of yesterday by Ron Burke:

The Tribune rightly calls attention to modest over-time fees that kick in when bikes are checked out beyond 30 minutes, but it fails to mention that nearly all trips are under 30 minutes in bike share systems. 97 percent, for example, are under 30 minutes in DC.

Now mark my words, this 30-minute penalty period is not going to be found to be very useful here in Chicago. I ride the Northside area from the Loop up to Wicker Park every weekend. If you live as far north as Logan Square it gets even more difficult to traverse distances from the Loop to these areas in a mere 30 minutes. Keep in mind too that despite all the blather about the BikeShare program being one more measure of “diversity” reaching the Urban Cycling Community, the only meaningful installations of these Divvy bikes will be to the Northwest of the Loop (besides the Loop itself).

The clientele from the Northwest is anything but patient in its riding style. My remarks about the impossibility of having “Bike Boxes” being taken seriously by this crowd is slim and none. Heck, “none” is a more honest answer. No self-respecting scofflaw rider I have ever witnessed would wait two counts to make a lefthand turn, when a quick lane position change would get you around the corner in a jiffy.

So despite the rather simplistic blather that a the 30-minute rule works for some 97% of the users in DC, I am guessing that even this “factoid” is skewed.

I surely wish that knuckleheads who are Cycling Advocates would think through their blather before unleashing it to the world. The 97% figure indicates one thing one thing only, “that riders returned their bikes to a station ‘on time‘ at a rate of 97%“. What would be interesting and instructive is what percentage of bikes being returned by a given rider were “taken out” just seconds before that persons last use. If you have a high rate of quick second removals by riders this tells you people are “dealing with” this 30-minute interval not simply finding it long enough.

Stay tuned. This could get even more interesting. Look for there to be some “tinkering” with the parameters of usage. And look for the “High Priests” to be unwilling to answer questions about their arguments in favor of the status quo. This is going to be revisited again.

Who Exactly Has ‘Skin In This Game’?

Whether anyone speaks to this issue on a regular basis it should be noted that BikeShare ventures around the world are generally being funded by the government. And as with every single “handout program” the only real losers are the taxpayers (many of whom will never, ever sit astride a rented bike). So when you read this or that Urban Cycling Sheep bleating its “talking points” at you just ask yourself, who is making money here?

The Ron Burke’s of the world get paid whether or not this or that pet project ever works. All he has to do is show up for the occasional photo-op and smile. Likewise the John Greenfield’s of the work continue to get paid each time that churn out a few paragraphs whether good or bad about the project and its condition. And should things “go sideways” he gets to blather about how his investigative journalism helped uncovered the “rats nest” beneath ground. And once it becomes clear that the “High Priests” are only “dissing” the project, every single ChainLinker who ever thought it was a good idea will suddenly not remember that “they voted for Nixon“.

The reason you are likely to get blather from the Urban Cycling Community is because not one of their asses is on the line to raise the startup monies to get the venture going and none will be swinging in the wind if it fails. These kinds of projects are purely Socialist in their structure. These (like the pretty green lanes) are being paid for with public monies and that is just fine for some folks. I hate to sound like a GOP supporter here, but it is detachment from the fallout should a project fail that makes it easy for all of this oiliness from the “High Priests” to be slathered in every direction.

These folks are essentially “bottle girls“. They arrive at your table with next to nothing on and ask if you have a drink in mind. Then while your eyes are fixed on their bosoms and your wallet is open you get to sip on a bottle of Krystal and think highly of yourself. This is the same game being played here only these guys have absolutely no bosoms and their legs aren’t even shaved. So who’s the sucker here? Just take a look into this tiny mirror I brought. See anybody you recognize?

More ‘Stupid Stuff’ Catches The ChainLink Zombies And Now They Wonder

Living with Divvy is not unlike meeting a person in a bar on a Friday night after a Critical Mass Ride and taking them home. Of course the next day you start to ask yourself a bit more about the person and at breakfast (should be you so lucky) you find out they have an STD.

Reply by Apie (10.6) 9 hours ago
Does anyone have a link to the contract we all signed?

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km 9 hours ago

Reply by Apie (10.6) 9 hours ago
You must not operate a Divvy bicycle in poor or dangerous weather conditions, including snow, hail, ice, or electrical storms, which could make it more dangerous to operate a Divvy bicycle.
Do you think they will lock up the docks for brief periods during winter?

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 9 hours ago
Doubtful. It’s more likely that phrasing will just be used in case someone sues Divvy because they fell off their bike in a snowstorm.

Either way Adam it means that you are not an intended user of these bikes in “bad weather“. You can “play dumb” as your buddy John Greenfield terms it but you are on your own in bad weather. And should there come a time when someone discovers that something about the bike actually makes “bad weather” riding just that much more dangerous, you are the sucker for not having asked the night before about STDs.

I’ve been riding Schwalbe Marathons (not the more puncture resistant Schwalbe Marathon Plus) for many years. In fact it has been a decade if memory serves. These are rugged tired but their “grip” is not why you buy them. If you want a tire that can keep you upright in bad weather the Marathon Supreme is the one you want. It is not as flat-resistant as the Marathon family but its profile and its composition make it an outstanding tire on wet pavement.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km 6 hours ago
Anyone seen any proof that this is not in fact an elaborate Ponzi scheme?
Two weeks to go from today and I have not seen any pictures that show docks being placed on the street. I am starting to wonder…

Reply by Zoetrope 6 hours ago
I don’t think it’s a ponzi scheme, I think it’s a conspiracy. Of what kind I’m not sure. Something to do with helmets and PBL’s causing head injuries. Also, the Liberal Agenda.

Cute, guys. But there are serious questions that need to be addressed. You too can “play dumb” which for you is quite easy but at some point the issues that are not being addressed now will have to be answered.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km 5 hours ago
Define very close. I am getting nervous that they charged my credit card for $65 and then all of a sudden…Poof! 😉
You think Gabe is in on the Ponzi scheme?

Puppie is being silly again.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 5 hours ago
If it’s a Ponzi scheme, then they’re terrible at it 😉

They didn’t take anyone’s money in cash or put enough time between charging people’s cards and jig being up to protect their take from charge backs. If they were good they should have run it through a few more levels, make everyone charge it to their Ventra debit cards or something.

Cameron, wake-up. You are being hosed.

Reply by Jeff Schneider 11 hours ago
I would not be surprised if initially, we find lots of empty stations when we want to take out a bike, and lots of full ones when we want to bring one back. Some stations will also probably get very little use. But the great thing about modern technology is that usage data will be accumulated very quickly, and adjustments to the size and location of stations, re-balancing plan, etc. can be made as needed.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km 11 hours ago
On their fb page, Divvy mentioned that the ratio of bikes to docks is about 1:2.
Rebalancing will be the biggest part of their operations. They will continually shuttle bikes from full locations to empty locations.
According to the Divvy rep that I spoke to they have pretty good idea how this will work. e.g. An hour or two before a Cubs game they will empty out the docking stations near Wrigley field. Fans ride their bikes to Wrigley field and will find plenty of space. Same thing with United Center and Comiskey Park.
And as Jeff said, usage data will help better anticpate needs.

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 10 hours ago
I also agree that 45 minutes would be better. It takes me around 35 minutes to get from Lake View to the Loop, and I’d like to not have to stop halfway to switch bikes. The limit should be however long it takes to get from the edge of the coverage area to the Loop.

Gonna retire this entry for now. Stay tuned for more discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this system. Divvy has “bugs” to work out before it will be a serviceable system of 4,000 bikes.