June 28, 2013
A new bicycle sharing system was launched in Chicago. This system was named “Divvy” to highlight a key defining characteristic of bicycle sharing, namely how participating riders divide and share the use of bicycles in this type of service. The efforts to establish such a system in the Windy City began in earnest as the result of a 2007 trip that then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley made to Europe. While visiting Paris, he checked out that city’s bicycle sharing system Vélib’ and found himself “greatly impressed.”
Daley, after returning to Chicago, requested proposals from the private sector to develop a similar system there. Ultimately, the city government awarded a contract to Alta Bicycle Share to create and operate a bicycle sharing system. (In the time since Divvy made its debut, Alta Bicycle Share has been acquired by Bikeshare Holdings and renamed Motivate.)
Divvy began operations on that Friday morning in June with 750 bicycles at 75 stations in an area extending southward from the Loop community area in downtown Chicago to Berwyn Avenue, then west to Kedzie Avenue, and then south to 59th Street. From that inaugural morning to the following Sunday night, a total of 4,123 trips were made with bicycles – each painted blue to match the color of the stripes on the Chicago city flag – that had been borrowed from Divvy.
“Divvy gives Chicagoans and visitors access to a bike when they want one, without having to worry about storage or maintenance,” said Gabe Klein, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, at the time of the system’s launch. “It also leverages Chicago’s public transit system to help commuters complete the first or last few miles of their trip.”
Divvy has since expanded its reach both within Chicago and into surrounding suburbs and now operates 5,800 bicycles at 580 stations. The area served by this system is bounded by 87th Street on the south; Central Street in the city of Evanston on the north; Rainbow Beach Park near South Shore Drive on the east; and Harlem Avenue in the village of Oak Park on the west. Divvy has the distinction of being North America’s largest bicycle sharing system in terms of area covered.
For more information on the Chicago-area bicycle sharing system Divvy, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divvy.
Additional information on Chicago’s bicycling history is available at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/136.html.