Divvy bikes stationed in Chicago in March 2020. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

NORTH LAWNDALE — The Divvy bike-share program is expanding, and residents can help decide where stations will be placed.

The Divvy bike program launched in 2013 with a fleet of 750 bikes as a way to offer low-cost options for transit and recreation. After gradually adding more bikes and stations over the years, the city’s transportation department is focused on filling gaps in Divvy’s service areas on the South and West sides.

The expanded service areas go as far northwest as Dunning and southwest to West Lawn. You can see which neighborhoods are included in the map below.

Residents who live in the expanded Divvy service areas can give feedback via a survey to help determine where bike share stations should be placed. Residents can give feedback on locations already being considered for a station or propose new locations.

The city and Divvy are working with neighborhood groups in the expanded service areas to get residents involved in the process.

The North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s transportation committee has hosted listening sessions and roundtables to figure out how the Divvy expansion could best benefit Lawndale residents. City transportation officials and Divvy staff toured North Lawndale with the neighborhood group to scout potential locations and evaluate their viability, said Rochelle Jackson, the group’s transportation committee chair.

“We went over the maps to see where the stations could possibly placed to increase bike transportation in the community,” Jackson said. “Our main concern was community safety and parking.”

To make sure the bike stations are used, they must be placed in convenient locations that will help Lawndale residents connect with the neighborhood’s parks, businesses and schools, Jackson said. Residents also requested infrastructure and safety improvements around the stations to make it easier to take advantage of the bikes, Jackson said.

“We were finding that some of the choices were OK, but [they] lacked good lighting or infrastructure,” Jackson said. “Other areas weren’t suitable because of high criminal activity.”

While the bike stations should be built in a way that is safe for users, the Divvy program expansion should still serve residents in places that struggle with crime since those areas have the greatest need for investment, said Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th).

“If we’re talking about a better quality of life for the entire community, we have to be able to service the entire community,” Scott said. “Whether that block is one that is a little bit rougher or not, we still want to be able to serve those folks and make this block as walkable or bike-friendly as possible, so that, hopefully …  it won’t be as rough later down the line.”

A new Divvy e-bike being used Credit: Provided Lyft/CDOT

The expansion of the Divvy program on the West Side will focus on e-bikes, which have a pedal assist feature that make them less physically demanding to use, said Amanda Woodall, a program director for the transportation department.

“It will help push you up to 15 miles per hour, which is just such an easier, more free-flowing experience for a lot of people. It helps people be able to go further and be able to go faster,” Woodall said.

The expansion will see the installation of more lightweight bike stations geared toward the e-bikes. Those stations are smaller than the standard Divvy stations and easier to move if the location needs to be adjusted, Woodall said. The e-bikes also come with a cable lock that allows riders the flexibility to dock the bikes even in locations that don’t have a dedicated station.

“People have more ways to end their trip. You can dock one of those bikes at a traditional Divvy station, but you can also lock it up to a bike rack, a sign pole,” Woodall said. “We’re less dependent on the stations themselves.”

City officials didn’t give a timeline for when they aim to have new stations up and running.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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