Free lessons this summer highlight the city’s ride-sharing program
Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011, Chicago has installed 115 miles of protected bike lanes to pair with 300 miles of on-street bikeways and trails. The message from the mayor’s office seems clear: Chicago is a biking town, and it’s got more room to grow. That growth appears headed for the city’s South and West sides.
Between June 12-August 28, the Chicago Department of Transportation is offering free, two-hour bike riding classes for adults at the Center for Green Technology and Kennedy King College, part of an effort to highlight the Divvy ride-sharing program. Bicycling Ambassadors will provide instruction, and, in the words of the city, “encourage adults who have never ridden a bike or not ridden bikes recently to feel comfortable riding a bike on the city’s streets.”
The classes may be part of a broad marketing campaign in coordination with Divvy sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield (which will be giving out free helmets), but it’s an honest one that looks to correct one of it’s biggest criticisms. Divvy has expanded in recent years, completing its second major renovation in 2016 by adding 85 new bikes stations around town. Yet despite having at least 580 stations and 5,800 bikes total, according to information provided by the city, people like Bernard Lloyd, co-founder of Bronzeville Bikes, and community activist Dolores Lucas, believe that Divvy figures more prominently in places like Lakeview and Lincoln Park, whereas it’s mostly an afterthought in minority neighborhoods like Roseland, West Pullman and Riverdale, and Archer Heights.
Offering free classes on the South and West side isn’t going to fix the discrepancy overnight, but it does move the needle in the right direction. What’s more, it’s an opportunity for people to take advantage of a program that’s trending upward. In the long-term, that means at least two things: the city’s status as one of the best cycling cities in the country will remain intact, and perhaps, we’ll begin to see a residual effect as it pertains to safety.
Back in 2015, the Bicycle Advisory Council crafted a plan that aims to reduce the number of bicycling fatalities by 50 percent from where it stands now. To do that, part of the plan includes creating a cycling network, serving all residents and neighborhoods. In theory, that means more cyclists and more changes to the infrastructure of the city.
Divvy is the one of largest ride-sharing program in North America, and some 10 million trips have been taken since its launch in 2013. Hopefully, we’ll add more to that total soon.