The City of Chicago’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) announced today that they are conducting a six-month pilot of a dockless bikeshare rental program this year on the far South Side. The pilot is designed to explore the operational impacts of dockless bikes and gauge demand for the service in areas not served by the City’s popular Divvy bikeshare program.
“The success of Divvy and our partnership with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois have proven that there is great support for bikeshare in Chicago,” CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said. “Dockless bike technology is a new option in the bikeshare market and it makes sense to test it in areas of the City that are not yet fully served by Divvy. We are eager to see firsthand how these programs work and whether there is a robust demand for bikeshare in these far South Side communities.”
CDOT and BACP have worked with far South Side Aldermen to identify neighborhoods that will be served by the dockless pilot that will run from May 1 through November 1. The pilot area will extend south and east from 79th Street and Western Avenue and south of South Chicago Avenue to serve neighborhoods including Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Calumet Heights, Roseland, Pullman, Hegewisch, Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood. Dockless bikes will be required to stay in and serve those communities.
Unlike Divvy trips that begin and end at a Divvy station, dockless bikes do not have stations and instead are located in public locations wherever it is legal to lock a bike. Customers use a smart phone to sign up on a company’s website or app to locate and rent a bike. Rates are set by the companies, and the City is requiring an option for those residents wanting to use cash. Any bikes that are parked outside of the pilot area or parked improperly must be retrieved and moved by the vendor within two hours.
The pilot is made possible through an Emerging Business Permit issued by BACP.
“This is another example of Chicago’s entrepreneurial spirit leading the way with creative big-city transportation options.” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno. “We are looking forward to implementing this six-month pilot program through BACP’s Emerging Business Permit (EBP) process as a way to learn how dockless bikeshare can complement existing transportation service offerings.”
“We’ve seen Divvy embraced in other parts of the City, and my constituents will appreciate the opportunity to test bikesharing services out in their own neighborhoods as well,” said Alderman Carrie Austin (34thWard). “I’d like to thank BACP and CDOT for working to make this dockless bikeshare pilot project happen. This will give us an opportunity to see how much demand there is for bikeshare in the 34th Ward.”
“The communities of Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood are excited to welcome dockless bikesharing,” said Alderman Matthew O’Shea (19th Ward). “We look forward to this pilot program and promoting healthier lifestyles throughout the ward.”
BACP’s permit has been issued to the following firms: Limebike, Zagster (Pace) and Ofo. Each company has committed to begin operations May 1 or soon thereafter. Other applications have been received and are still being reviewed for completion and compliance with the City’s permit terms. Each company participating in the dockless pilot will have a maximum of 250 bikes. The companies will be responsible for rebalancing the bikes and implementing a marketing and community outreach plan to help educate residents in the pilot area on how to use the system. Companies will also be required to share data with the City, so that bike usage and the success of the program can be evaluated.
To test the operational impacts of different locking technologies of dockless bikes, until July 1, companies can introduce dockless bikes with wheel locks as well as those that are required to lock to something in the pilot area. After July 1, only bikes with lock-to technology will be allowed. Lock-to bikes will secure the bike to an immovable object so that it does not block pedestrians or traffic at the end of the rental trip. Bikes can easily be secured to bike racks, bike corrals, light poles, retired parking meters and street signs in the designated pilot area. This will ensure that the public right-of-way remains clear and hazard-free for pedestrians and people with disabilities.
Participating companies will be required to pay a $50 per bike fee to support the installation of new bike parking racks within the pilot area and to help cover administrative costs of the pilot program. Every bike will have a visible phone number on it that will allows citizens to report bikes parked in illegal or unsafe locations. Residents are encouraged to call the companies directly with their concerns.
The dockless pilot will leverage Chicago’s public transit system to help commuters complete the first or last few miles of their trip. The most frequent Divvy trips are made to or from public transit stations. The bikes are envisioned for those parts of the multi-mode commute or for other short point-to-point trips.
Over the past four years, Divvy, with the strong support of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois, has become an integral part of the Chicago transportation network, providing people an opportunity to explore the city in a way that is safe, fun and equitable, and creating good jobs for Chicagoland residents.
The dockless pilot program further supports Chicago's goal to remain the best large city for cycling by expanding access to bikeshare to more communities. This will encourage active transportation, increase transportation options and improve public health.