If you live in Chicago, you’ve noticed the seemingly ubiquitous blue bikes that have been popping up all over the city. I live and work downtown but at first I was skeptical about the system’s usefulness. I’m a somewhat serious biker but I wasn’t sure the system would really be practical. I didn’t sign up until I noticed there is a station within a block of: 1) my apartment; 2) my office; and 3) the courthouse. So, last week, I paid the $75.00 to sign up and, on Monday, my key pass showed up in the mail. Overall, I think the system works great if you live and work in the right places. I’ve only used 4 of the stations, so I can’t speak to the overall network.
First, I love the simplicity of grabbing a bike out of the rack and just taking off. I also like not worrying if my bike is going to be stolen when it’s locked up outside. I’ve got a fancy street bike, but I’m always paranoid that it will get boosted when I leave it anywhere. It’s nice not having to worry about your bike when you’re downtown.
The bikes work well and are simple to use. Once you figure out how to use the rack, it’s pretty simple to grab a bike or park one. They have three speeds (more on that later) and, well, they’re bikes.
I really like these bikes for getting to and from court. It’s usually about a 15 minute walk to court, but on a Divvy bike, it only takes about 5 minutes. It’s nice to save twenty minutes in transit, especially on a busy day (read: every day). Its an even further walk to the federal court and to some offices I frequent downtown, so I imagine I’ll be using the Divvy to get down there too.
What with all the new bike lanes in Chicago, I think that these bikes are going to be at least a solid success. It makes a ton of sense for a quick jaunt from one place to another.
On the one hand, I understand that these bikes aren’t serious speed machines. On the other hand, on Chicago’s flat roads, they could use some more juice. The bikes have three speeds, but really the first two speeds are almost totally useless, unless you want to go really really slowly. Even in third gear, the bikes could definitely use some more power.
Besides my little commutes to and from work and the courthouse, I probably won’t have any other use for the Divvy bikes. Like Divvy says, these aren’t intended for long-haul trips or multi-hour excursions. On the other hand, I suspect I’ll use the bikes almost daily in the spring summer and fall. Of course, I’m curious to see how these things hold up over the winter and if Divvy will take the bikes in or reduce the number of bikes on the racks.
I’m sure the system will become even more useful as more stations come online and more people join. In the meantime, if you have a route that you frequently walk, Divvy bikes make for a nice alternative. If you have to go more than two or three miles, I’d probably recommend taking the train or your own bike. I’m giving the DIVVY bikes 4.5 fins out of 5 for being innovated and ambitious. I could use some more speed and am looking forward to more bike racks coming online.