Divvy : Unintended Consequences?

Background Reading


Reply by Shaun Jacobsen 9 hours ago
I haven’t but I’m a little concerned about the rack removals; are they going to replace them? As it is in some popular areas around/in downtown, it is hard to find a spot! I like that people are using the bike racks, since it means people are biking, but I never thought I’d have a problem finding a spot to park my bike 😉
So I hope that CDOT is planning on replacing every single rack. I signed up for Divvy for some trips, but I still want to be able to park my bike without too much issue.

Duppie 13.5185km said:
Ooooh! Exciting! I see evidence of racks being placed soon. Both on Wells @ Oak and Clinton @ Madison signs appeared on existing bike racks that they will be removed today. Both are June Locations for Divvy…
On Wells @ Oak the bike racks are so dilapidated they should be thrown out. Not sure if they plan to replace them. On Clinton @ Madison (in front of the FFC) the bike racks are likely moved 30 feet south. I saw markings on the ground indicating the new locations.
Anyone else see any signs of activity?

What Happens If Resources Are Limited?

Besides there being contention for parking spots, there are other issues that will no doubt surface as the ridership on Divvy surges. I expect that among the first things will be that traditionally open bike lanes will start to see some congestion. Intersections will also provide a greater challenge for the scofflaw cyclists as more people waiting above the white stripe means a more difficult time getting into the intersection on a red light. And in fact the traditional ruse of moving into the intersection and hovering over a crosswalk will be harder to pull of if you have these Divvy bike riders settling into spaces that were once free and open to scofflaw cyclists.

Speed will be the other consideration. One of the reasons that I suspect the Dutch and Danes have so few head injuries (and thus eschew helmets) is that they take a more leisurely approach to travel in bike lanes. The cycle tracks are quite flooded with riders but I am just guessing that the average speed is closer to 8-10 MPH than the 18-20 MPH that many Yanks like to maintain on Milwaukee Avenue. With these heavier bikes with increased rolling resistance (due to the thick tires to prevent punctures) you are bound to see novice riders loping along looking for a restaurant or building and paying very little attention to average speed when location is of more importance.

And if you think that downtown spaces are at a premium, things will get quite interesting out in the neighborhoods. Right now Milwaukee offer a limited number of spots along the sidewalk facing the avenue itself. Add Divvy bikes on side streets and you now have a major reduction in free spots for citizens who live in the area. And that will get to be really old if the number of bikes in a given area are not turning over quickly. The reason is that the locals will come to view the rentals as space hogs that are seldom used and thus preventing residents from locking up bikes that get frequent use.

A Satisfactory Response?

Reply by Elliot Greenberger (Divvy) 4 hours ago
Hi Shaun,
It’s a great question. Our plan is to relocate all affected bike racks within 1 block of their origin. More bikes is better. 🙂


Well that sounds just swell unless of course it is your bike rack that is being displaced a block away. And that is precisely what is happening. The thing that will rankle the locals is that they will no longer be able to use those really central locations because Divvy will probably have sussed out the fact that such places are prime locations for their bikes.

Photographer Bill Cunningham showed some recent photos of New Yorkers who had actually locked their bikes to the Bike Share stanchions. That is going to cause the Bike Share folks some heartburn for certain. But what really are the alternatives if the rack you used to occupy has been moved in favor of a bunch of bikes that mostly tourists are riding and you now have to walk a block or more in deep snow or hard rain to find your bike? And besides you could keep and eye on it from your office window before, but now it is out of sight around the corner in an area of the city you find less friendly.

Inquiring Minds Wanna Know…

Here are some questions that you might think to consider if you were riding the Chicago Lakefront Trail. But when dozens if not hundreds or if we are really lucky thousands of riders take to the streets those same questions become relevant in this new road space:

  • If a cell phone rings will the rider pull over to the side of the bike lane or stop in the middle?
  • If two people meet in the bike lane will they stop and have their conversation in the middle of the lane? What happens if they are traveling in opposite directions on a street like Dearborn?
  • What do you do when a class of junior high or high school students is out on Divvy bikes and pedaling in twos and threes talking and having a good time?
  • What happens when a tourist stops to ask questions of a pedestrian (probably near the intersection)
  • Do you have to pay special attention to an 80-year old rider who is being escorted by a caregiver?
  • Will tourists pull out maps and stand in the middle of the bike lane orienting themselves in an attempt to find their next destination?
  • What will occur when someone falls over and hurts themselves and pedestrians and bikers alike stop to help? Will that clog up the bike lane?
  • On days when tourists are flooding in from the Metra™ trains to head over to Navy Pier will the street routes you take be clogged? How will you find out what alternates to take?
  • If a Divvy bike breaks down what will people do to find help? Will this mean that good etiquette requires you to stop and be a Good Samaritan?