Divvy ‘Rebalancers’ Move 1,300 Bikes Per Day Like ‘Clockwork’

By Kyla Gardner on November 6, 2013 8:18am | Updated 2 hrs ago

Source: DNAInfo

THE LOOP — Biking in Chicago requires a lot of driving — at least when it comes to Divvy.

You may have spotted the large Divvy vans that cart the city’s bike-share program bikes from docking station to docking station. The tall, bright blue vans are hard to miss — especially during rush hour.

“[We] will just be rushing, jumping out, loading up bikes because [the stations] fill up that quickly,” said Caleb Usry, 34, who works as a Divvy “rebalancer.” “It’s like clockwork, Monday through Friday.”

Five vans are deployed across the city during morning and evening rush hours and an overnight shift. Each van can carry up to 28 bikes, and Divvy moves between 1,000 and 1,300 bikes per day, said Elliot Greenberger, a Divvy spokesman.

While neighborhood station trends are less predictable, Divvy has hit its stride in the Loop, said Usry, of Uptown, who has worked for Divvy since it launched in June.

On weekday afternoons, rebalancers rush bicycles from overflowing stations along Canal and Clinton streets near Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center to “hot spot” stations east of the Chicago River.

Hot spots — those stations that tend to empty quickly around 5 p.m. — are outside the Board of Trade building (LaSalle Street and Jackson Boulevard), Chicago Department of Transportation headquarters (LaSalle and Washington streets ), Michigan Avenue and Lake Street, and all the stations along Franklin and Dearborn streets, among others, Usry said.

During the morning rush hour, those same stations overflow, and rebalancers work in the opposite direction.

A few stations don’t need the help of the Divvy vans, as they naturally fill and empty without overflowing or hitting zero, Usry said.

“Clark and Congress: I can’t remember the last time I went there,” he said.

Usry also marks bikes for repair as he comes across them. He sees slashed seats, missing pedals and the occasional graffiti tag or sticker.

Divvy "rebalancers" drive bicycles from docking stations that overflow to stations that empty quickly. Flickr/danxoncil

Divvy “rebalancers” drive bicycles from docking stations that overflow to stations that empty quickly.

So far, neighborhood stations aren’t as predictable as the Loop, Usry said, so rebalancers working outside the Downtown area drive around looking for stations to balance, or work with dispatchers who have real-time station data.

“There are stations on the North Side that get a lot more use than others, we’ve noticed, but even the rush hour trends are different,” he said. “It’s not like [the Loop], where we would go, ‘OK, Montrose is going to need to be full.’ It just doesn’t work that way, for whatever reason,” he said.

But rebalancers can sometimes predict when certain stations will become “hots pots,” like those near Soldier Field on Bears game days, or the Navy Pier and River North stations on weekends.

“No matter what part of town you’re working, you can go to pick up bikes [at Navy Pier] every 30 minutes on weekends,” he said. “I guess it’s tourists. On Saturdays, that’s the honey pot.”

Divvy has installed more than 300 stations, and plans to have 400 by the end of the year.

The program will be sticking around for winter, but with fewer bikes, Greenberger said. Usry imagines that will mean less hectic rush hours, but additional station duties for rebalancers.

“I have a feeling we’ll just be shoveling a lot of snow,” he said.


It must be somewhat embarrassing for the “hard left” members of the Urban Cycling Movement to admit that they could not have pulled off the successful opening of Divvy without (gasp) the automobile. And not just a small subcompact one at that. These are large German made vehicles from Mercedes. Let that sink in for a moment.

The “little people” who openly despise automobiles have to rely on them to further their green ambitions. Now it could further be offered up that all of those Protected Bike Lanes will be cleared of snow and ice by (gasp) automobiles.

What is the world coming to!?

Maybe it’s time for the “hard left” to organize a boycott of Divvy until the company agrees to go completely green and use cargo bikes to rebalance their loads. Think of all the guys who normally run pedicabs around the city. They would be the perfect ones to do the heavy lifting here, right?

Or maybe all the blowhards who populate the Urban Cyclists “Whine and Jeez” Club Forum ought to get first dibs. They could collectively do the night runs, right?

Hah! Most of their energy will have been spent blathering on their computers at work (by the way when are their bosses going to get wise and dock their pay?). Having the member of the Urban Cycling Movement do anything that smacks of hard work (that could be done more easily by an automobile) would indeed be worth paying to see.