CHICAGO — The city is giving away 5,000 free bikes, plus free maintenance and safety equipment over the next four years as part of a new city program.
Bike Chicago, a collaboration between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Transportation, will kick off this summer with at least 500 free bikes in the first year of the program, officials said in a press release Monday.
Chicago has 680 bikes on hand for the first year of the program, mayoral spokesperson Amanda Bolton said. The rest of the bikes will be given out by 2026, officials said.
Some of the first bikes will be assembled by and given to Chicago public school students who participate in the Greencorps Chicago Youth Program, a city jobs training program, according to a press release. The bikes are single-speed commuter models that will be durable on Chicago streets and easy for owners to maintain, officials said.
Chicagoans who participated in city biking programs, including the Chicago SAFE Ambassadors’ Learn to Ride and the Open Boulevards events, will also receive some bikes in the first round of giveaways, according to the press release. The rest will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis for qualifying residents, officials said.
To qualify, you must:
- Be a Chicago resident;
- Be at least 14 years old (those under 18 will need a guardian present when picking up the bike and equipment);
- Have a household income at or below 100% of the Area Median Income for Chicago;
- Not already own a bicycle;
- Face higher mobility hardship or participate in a CDOT Mobility program.
Online and paper applications will be accepted from July 18-Aug. 4. You can apply here. The first round of bikes will be given out in August and September.
Winners will be matched with a bike that fits them based on the height specified on their application.
When picking up their bike, recipients will receive “information and resources they need to confidently travel the City’s bikeways network and keep their bike working for years to come,” according to a press release.
The bike giveaway “accelerates both the City’s climate and equity goals by providing new workforce pathways, bikes and supportive resources that promote safe biking and a healthy low-carbon transportation ecosystem for all Chicagoans,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
Gia Biagi, commissioner of the city’s transportation department, said in a statement the program’s creation is a part of her department’s commitment to “making biking a more popular and practical option for all residents.”
The program announcement comes amid a brutal time for street safety.
Drivers have killed at least 18 pedestrians and five cyclists so far in 2022, including four children in June: 2-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas, 3-year-old, Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, 11-year old J’alon James and 15-year-old Joshua Avina.
An average of five to six bicyclists were killed every year from 2012-2019 in Chicago, according to state data. The annual death rate has steadily increased since then, with nine bicyclists killed in 2020 and 10 killed in 2021, including 16-year-old Jose Velásquez.
The city also recently announced all post-protected bike lanes in Chicago will receive concrete barrier upgrades by the end of 2023. Rebecca Resman, founder of Chicago Family Biking, said the improvements are a “step in the right direction” toward ensuring the safety of people on bikes across the city.
Bike Chicago will continue the giveaways until 5,000 free bikes have been provided by 2026, according to the press release. Depending on demand, the City may implement a lottery for eligible residents after the first year of the program, according to the program website.
The program is “part of Chicago’s goal to increase affordable and climate friendly mobility options,” and is funded through the Chicago Recovery Plan, according to a press release.
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