CDOT Distributes More Than 500 Free Bikes and Safety Equipment In First Year of Bike Chicago Program
CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced it provided more than 500 free bikes to eligible Chicago residents in the inaugural year of the Bike Chicago program. Supported by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot’s historic $188 million investment in climate mitigation and environmental justice initiatives through the Chicago Recovery Plan, Bike Chicago aims to provide 5,000 free bikes, as well as maintenance and safety equipment, to residents over the next five years as part of Chicago’s goal to increase affordable and climate-friendly mobility options.
“Thanks to the Bike Chicago program, 500 more Chicago residents now have access to an affordable, healthy, and sustainable form of transportation,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “Under the leadership of Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago has been working hard to connect more neighborhoods by building new and better bike lanes, while also growing bike riding as a convenient travel choice for people of all ages and abilities.”
Along with a new bicycle, Bike Chicago recipients received a helmet, lock, light, bell, multi-tool, and chain lubricant. While picking up their bike and equipment, CDOT’s SAFE (Streets Are For Everybody) Ambassadors provided residents with information and resources to confidently travel the City’s bikeway network and keep their bikes working for years to come. Within the course of four months, CDOT was able to distribute 500 bikes to residents. This feat would not have been possible without the support of Greencorps Chicago and community partners Working Bikes and West Town Bikes.
More than 19,000 residents applied to Bike Chicago in the first year, demonstrating a clear demand for bikes and interest in cycling in every Chicago neighborhood. Bike Chicago received applications from all of Chicago’s 77 community areas, with a majority of applications from areas where residents face higher mobility hardship, according to the Mobility and Economic Hardship (MOBEC) Index, a customized index that maps the combined mobility and economic hardship for all of Chicago’s community areas.
CDOT is committed to growing the number of cyclists in the city through expanding bikeway networks and continued investments in bike infrastructure, particularly in neighborhoods that rank high on the MOBEC Index. Since 2019, 75 percent of Chicago’s bike network expansion has been on the south and west sides.
Communities with the most Bike Chicago applications were Austin and Belmont Cragin, two neighborhoods where CDOT has used a community-based approach to build Neighborhood Bike Networks – a series of connected bike routes which help neighbors easily get to all the places they want and need to go by bike. This approach has helped the Belmont Cragin community quadruple its mileage of bikeways in the last two years.
People of all ages applied for the program, with the most applications coming from residents ages 30-40 (26 percent) and 50+(21 percent). The three most common reasons applicants listed for wanting a bike were exercise, fun/stress relief, and transportation.
Bike Chicago recipients included participants in CDOT’s 2022 mobility programming, including:
- The Greencorps Chicago Youth Program (GCYP), which is CDOT’s summer youth employment program. GCYP connects young people to career opportunities and service projects in the sustainability and environmental fields, including bicycling, urban agriculture, and horticulture. GCYP participants assembled many of the bicycles that were distributed this year and received a bike of their own as part of their participation.
- CDOT’s Learn to Ride program, which offers free classes to teach residents how to ride a bike and develop safe riding skills. The classes are led by the SAFE Ambassadors and range from beginner classes for people who don’t to how to ride a bike to advanced road rides for people who want to build confidence.
CDOT worked closely with several community partners throughout the first year of Bike Chicago, including Working Bikes – a nonprofit bike shop that collects donated bicycles and redistributes them as tools of empowerment around Chicago and around the world. Working Bikes helped overhaul and deliver bikes, conduct final safety checks, and manage inventory to ensure recipients were matched with appropriately sized bikes.
"At Working Bikes, we’ve helped well over 100,000 folks get rolling on used bicycles. We ship bikes to projects abroad, donate to folks in need locally, and sell bikes from our warehouse in Little Village,” said Trevor Clarke, Working Bikes Executive Director. “Seeing hundreds of brand new bikes pass through our building was a first, but we were delighted that our experience could add to the City’s laudable efforts. We're looking forward to getting even more people moving through our neighborhoods on sustainable, healthy, and fun two-wheeled self-determined transportation.”
West Town Bikes – a nonprofit bike shop that provides youth and community programs – also helped with assembling bikes and safety checks, as well as providing safety and maintenance equipment, such as bells, multitools, and lights, for recipients.
The Bike Chicago application will reopen in early 2023. CDOT will send out another release to announce the opening of the 2023 program application.