By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
By JESSICA KIM COHEN
Little more than a year since the City of Chicago launched its Divvy bicycle rideshare program, ample data is emerging about how Hyde Parkers use the service.
Since its launch on June 28, 2013, Divvy has grown from 75 to 300 stations. A Herald analysis of Divvy’s more than 750,000 rides in 2013 shows that 1.3 percent of all city rides either began or ended in one of Hyde Park’s 10 stations, 30 percent of which stayed within Hyde Park. The station at 58th Street and Ellis Avenue was the most used, and the station at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue the least used.
Among Divvy trips beginning in Hyde Park, eight of the top 10 destinations were in the neighborhood and the other two along the lakefront — at Fort Dearborn and 31st Street and Museum Campus. The system — which charges every user a fee after each half hour without docking — encourages shorter rides, according to Elliot Greenberger, general manager of Divvy’s operator, Alta Bicycle Share, Inc.
“Most people won’t take an hour long bike ride to another neighborhood on Divvy,” he said. “I see that they’re staying within the neighborhood, and also kind of hugging the lakefront.”
Another factor in these usage patterns may be that there are no Divvy stations south of Hyde Park, only one station in Washington Park and five between 47th and 35th streets. The Divvy system requires density to be useful, according to Greenberger, so the system grew out of its first stations downtown.
“As we expanded to 300 stations over the summer and early fall, we sort of fanned out from there,” he said. “You can’t have a station in one place and then a station a mile away. You really need it about every few blocks.”
Divvy data also revealed a stark gender imbalance: among subscribers riding within Hyde Park, around 81 percent of trips were taken by men. This breakdown is reflected citywide, according to Greenberger.
“I think that that sort of generally reflect bikeshare, not just in Chicago, but other cities as well,” he said. He added that to address this imbalance, Divvy introduced Women’s Bike Month last June, a campaign aimed at promoting female bike ridership.
As Divvy expands to 475 stations —including an additional 16 in Hyde Park and Woodlawn, 17 in South Shore and nine in Washington Park — a major question has been its impact on bike sales and rentals. Although citywide bicycle rental Bike and Roll, which owns a rental under the 53rd Street train tracks, declined to comment, the neighborhood’s other stores remain mostly unaffected.
David Jones, owner of DJs Bike Doctor, a bike sale and repair shop at 1500 E. 55th St., estimates Divvy’s impact on business is slight and mostly affects new bike sales.
“Most of our customers are not their customers,” he said, adding that a large part of his customer base are families and students, who are interested in owning bikes.
“It’s putting more people out there, which is always a good thing,” Jones added. “The more people riding, the better.”
Chris Willard, shop operations manager at Blackstone Bike Works, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave., says he hasn’t noticed a change in business. According to him, business at the shop, which sells and repairs bikes, has grown every year.
“Our customers are often university students who are moving to a new city and looking for a convenient way to get around,” Willard said. “And for them, owning a bike is less expensive than renting a bike, either through Divvy or Bike and Roll.”
Nor would an expansion of Divvy south of Hyde Park into Woodlawn threaten business, he said.
“I don’t think that Divvy will replace the ownership of bicycles, and so I would welcome, and Blackstone, I think, would welcome more access to cycling in general,” Willard said. “It would just get more people on bikes, which would be good for everyone.”