Chicago looks to launch bike sharing in 2012

September 21, 2011

System will have 3,000 bikes and 300 stations in 2012

Chicago’s first large-scale bike-sharing program—envisioned as a new, affordable option to complement existing transportation choices—is expected to launch in summer 2012, CDOT officials said today.

CDOT today issued a request for proposals seeking a company to operate what will be one of the country’s largest bike-sharing programs.  The RFP calls for a system to include 3,000 bikes and 300 docking stations in 2012, with an additional 2,000 bikes and 200 stations in the following 24 months.

“Mayor Emanuel has set a clear goal of making Chicago a world-class city for bicycling, and bike sharing is a critical part of achieving that goal,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein.  “And every investment we make in the city, like bike sharing, is about making the city better and more efficient for the people that pay the bills, the taxpayers.”

The system will provide a convenient, easy-to-use transit option envisioned for short trips.  Users will pick up a bike from a self-service docking station, ride to their destination and drop off the bike at the nearest station.

Bike sharing is a great option to supplement existing transportation choices, Klein said, and can be used to fill gaps in the transit system or to complete the last segment of a trip, for example between a transit station and the workplace.

Membership and user fees will be affordable for Chicagoans and visitors alike.  Specific fees will be proposed by the vendors, but the RFP call for the first 30 minutes of use to be free to members.  Additional use will be available on a graduated-fee basis.  Annual, weekly and daily memberships will offer flexible options for users.  Members will sign up via a web site, while one-time users will use a credit card at the automated kiosk.

The specially design bikes will feature multiple speeds, chainguards, fenders on both wheels and a cushioned seat, and will appeal to cyclists of all skill levels.

The solar-powered docking stations will be placed about a quarter-mile apart, and located in high-density areas, including near transit stations.  CDOT will work with the winning bidder and the public to determine station locations.

Initial funding for the program will come from federal grants designed for projects that help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.  The program will be self-sustaining through member and user fees, as well as advertising and sponsorship.

Responses to the RFP are expected by October 25, 2011.


For a great  overview of bike sharing, click here.


Frequently asked questions

What will bike sharing achieve?

  • Important step toward Mayor Emanuel’s goal to make Chicago a world-class city for bicycling.
  • Provides a new transportation option—convenient, affordable, easy-to-use.
  • Reduces dependency on automobiles, particularly for short trips, reducing traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and the demand for parking.
  • Appeals to commuters, workers, recreational users and visitors.
  • Enhances existing public transportation system by providing bicycles to complete the “first mile/last mile”—the start and endpoints of a trip (e.g., from a train station to the workplace).
  • Expands the health and wellness benefits of bicycle transportation beyond traditional enthusiast groups to everyone living or working in the City.


Where will the stations be located?

Stations will be roughly 1/4 mile apart, focusing on areas with dense employment, retail and residential development. Specific locations will be determined after a vendor is selected, and will be guided by significant public input.


What will it cost for users?

TBD.  Memberships are anticipated in the $50-$100 range annually.  The first 30 minutes of use will be free.  Graduated fees will apply to longer use.  One-time use will also be available for a daily fee.



Where else can bike sharing be found?

Bike sharing has been In place for well over a decade in European and Asian cities.  Since 2008 new North American programs have started in: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Washington DC, Miami, Minneapolis and Denver.  In Chicago, a private operator, B Cycle, launched a program of 100 bikes and six stations in 2010.


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