Divvy Is Just Fine, It’s Greenfield That Should Be Made Idiot-Proof!

Background Reading


Sorry John but you stepped in it big time. You wrote of John Hilkevitch:

I’ve long considered the Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch to be one of Chicago’s best transportation writers. He works fast, gets his numbers straight and often gets the scoop on important stories, usually writing from a pro-walking, biking and transit perspective. For example, I always enjoy re-reading a brilliant article he wroteback in 2005, skewering the Daley administration’s pro-car policies. I appreciate that he provides a level-headed foil to his colleague columnist John Kass, a notorious bike-baiter.

Over the last few weeks Hilkevitch has been doing a solid job of updating the public on the city’s plans to roll out the Divvy bike-share system, which promises to dramatically boost the number of cyclists, which will in turn lead to safer streets. However, he really let the kids down with yesterday’s disappointing faux-exposé, “Overtime fees, legal potholes dot city bike-share program.”

Just Monday, after Divvy bikes debuted at Bike the Drive, Hilkevitch ran a detailed, informative piece about the system, which demonstrated a good understanding of how bike-share will work. “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,” he wrote.

In that article Hilkevitch quoted Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein as saying the bikes, equipped with fenders and chainguards, are practical to ride in professional clothes. “You can wear a suit and feel totally fine, like you are not going to get it dirty,” Klein said.

However, yesterday’s anti-Divvy piece seems to be written by someone unclear on the concept of how successful bike-share systems function. It’s almost as if Hilkevitch’s editor told him to trash the program in order to draw extra pageviews, or perhaps, between writing the two articles, the reporter came down with a mild case of amnesia.

Cruising the lakefront on Divvy bikes. Photo: John Greenfield

Cruising the lakefront on Divvy bikes. Photo: John Greenfield

The very meaning of your title “Does Divvy Need to Be Made Idiot-Proof?” implies that Divvy users are largely “idiots“? When John Hilkevitch questioned (and rightly so) the fee structure you decided he was writing a guerrilla piece that was somehow intended to make Divvy look bad. There have been several articles of a similar nature written about the CitiBike fee structure as well. The concept can be confusing and not because people are idiots. It is confusing because like the contracts dreamt up for the housing market just before the collapse of the economy in 2008, it is convoluted.

I spent a good while on last Thursday with a fellow software engineer trying to explain the structure and its fees and even he (despite his Masters Degree) had some questions that were interesting and not answerable unless you had the fine print in front of you. But even if you know the fine print there is still the odd set of “coincidences” that have the iPhone Apps for the system indicating that wrong location for some of the stations. This is a fact that has been documented on the ChainLink Forum (noted for its pro-biking stance). And of course people are finding that checking out bikes is difficult at times because the stations are empty.

I have also been asking the question of why Divvy is so automobile-centric. You would think given all the grief that ChainLinkers have heaped on the owners of the Oak Street Beach restaurant concession and the fact that its alcohol gets restocked by trucks driving along the Lakefront Path that Gabe Klein and company would have found a way to encourage Alta to use pedal-powered vehicles to shunt bikes around the city, just to show those nasty bike-haters what a truly green operation looks like. But no, Divvy is not much different in operation from anybody else. So much for saving the planet.

You Owe Hilkevitch An Open Letter Of Apology

He asked the same questions that you are trying to resolve in your current article. Yet you castigated him for raising them. Are you somehow trying to be a guerrilla attacker of Divvy or are you simply looking at a system which needs some fine-tuning? If the latter then you certainly need to express your apologies to John Hilkevitch. He did not deserve the harsh words you rained down on him.

But my guess is that your association with Ms. Angie Schmitt has changed your style towards that of yellow journalism. Fine. I can understand the need to boost circulation. But just know that some of us will be here to call you out when you lie and are deceitful.

Not Every Critic Of Your ‘Precious Movement’ Or Its Components Is “The Enemy”

There is a Jonestown Mentality that appears to have gripped the cycling movement. It makes honest critiques the “work of satan” where members of the Church of Urban Cycling are concerned. No only does this church attempt to deny the reality of the basis for critiques it also attempts to squelch the transmission of information that does not sustain the mythology set forth in Talking Points of this church. Neither the Nazi Party nor the Chinese Communists at the heights of their influence were any less zealous in fending off criticisms of what they thought or had done.

Please resist the urge to have a knee jerk response to anything that anyone ever says that does not make you or Ron Burke happy. That is pure nonsense. Stop the coordinated attempts to impugn the motives of everyone who tries to tell you that the Emperor may not be wearing any clothes. You end up looking as stupid afterwards as you had hoped to make them look when you were waging your propaganda war.