How Will Dockless Bikes Effect City?        

Dockless Divvy-Like System Comes to Chicago

June 14, 2018

As Chicagoans we’re familiar with the bevvy of blue Divvy bikes. The shared bike system was introduced to Chicago in 2013 and since then the blue wave has taken over the city and currently has nearly 6,000 bikes and 580 docking stations. The bikes are constantly rotating through stations as locals and tourists ride them from one end of the city to the other (and as far as Evanston). Yearly membership starts at $99 and unlocks unlimited 45 minute rides for the adventurous, while the beginner and moderate users can do a 30 minute trip for $3/ride. Over the past 5 years the number of Divvy members have sky rocketed to 37,000 annual members.  It’s clear this bike share program has taken off in our city. The blue bikes may have some competition this summer though as we have seen the introduction of the dockless bike system.

Station Free Bike Companies Flock to the Midwest
Earlier this spring the city opened the gates to bike sharing companies to test their products.  The bikes were rolled out earlier this spring on the South Side and are considerably cheaper compared to Divvy. Without docking stations the program’s overall cost drops and makes it more affordable and manageable for low income neighborhoods. As of May 1st the program has rolled out to the Far South Side between 79th Street to 138th Street, and from the Skyway to as far west as Pulaski Road. Divvy docks are only north of 87th street leaving the south with a need for affordable bike share programs. The dockless system will continue it’s first run into November as the city hammers out the pain points and grapples with the new public transportation solution.

How Do They Work?
These new bikes can be located through a phone app and once the trip is over can essentially be left anywhere for the next passing user to rent. Obviously there is a concern of quality and care when the riders are given the freedom to park the bike wherever they please. The bikes are supposed to be locked or chained up so they stay stationary but without a predetermined docking station there is a risk for bikes to be stolen, damaged, or end up on the bottom of the Chicago river…

One solution that has been enacted is retrofitting all the bikes with a something that that the rider can easily lock it to once the ride is complete (bike rack, light pole, gate, etc.). Come July 1st the city is requiring this system needs to be implemented into all bikes for all bikes to help prevent stray bikes from being in public walk ways and creating hazards.  This requirement will encourage these hungry companies to spend that surplus in the budget on “lock-to” components and other locking devices to their bikes rather than leave the unit floating.  Once their bikes meet this condition they will be able to operate up to 250 bikes.  Until they have the lock-to component they will only be allowed 50 bikes.  Pace (not to be confused with our bus system), LimeBike, and Ofo are 3 companies that have released their bikes into the Windy City so far.

LimeBike offers cash payment, no smart phone required rentals.  While Pace bikes have built in locks and the “Hold Bike” feature in their app when you need to make a quick coffee stop. Ofo’s bikes are bright yellow and include a GPS enabled, mobile synced, smart lock on the back wheel. All of these station free bike companies have the common mission of a convenient and affordable environmental friendly transportation system.  As the bikes take off in Chicago we will see who will come out as the “next” Divvy of our city.

Will Divvy Remain King?


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