Large Scale Bike-Sharing System Announced for Chicago!

Imagine my surprise when I visited the main page of the Chicago Tribune this evening and saw the big lead story: City to rent thousands of bicycles.  Apparently, city officials just announced plans for a large scale bike-sharing system.  Oh yes yes yes!!

Mr. Dottie uses Paris's Velib bike-sharing system

The system is still in the planning stages and a company has not yet been picked to implement it, but it’s expected to start in the summer of 2012, with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations around the city, most 1/4 of a mile apart in the most dense areas. By 2014, the city hopes to add 2,000 more bikes and 200 more stations.  The system will pay for itself with membership fees (only $75/year with the first 30 minutes free) and sponsorships, along with federal congestion-relief funding.

I love the messaging going out to explain the system.  The article starts thusly:

Transferring from a train to a bus stuck in traffic is often the most frustrating and slowest way to finish a commute, prompting Chicago officials on Wednesday to start the wheels rolling on a new “transit option.”

Discussing how the bike share system will be aimed at all citizens, even those who do not currently ride a bike, the new transportation director, Gabe Klien, says “We view it as a basic form of transportation, but also a fun way to get around.” The article also compares it to the beloved i-Go car-sharing system, which will help regular people understand how a bike-share could be useful to them.

The article’s description of the bikes made me chuckle, because it totally mirrors what’s so great about my Dutch bike.

‘The new bikes will have an upright seating position for riders, a step-through frame to make mounting and dismounting easy, wide tires and a built-in LED-lighting system,’ he said. Other features will include at least three gear speeds, cushioned seats, chain guards to keep lubricant off clothing and fenders above both wheels to prevent water on the pavement from splashing onto the riders.

I am so excited about this and what it means for the future of Chicago as a bike-friendly city. I used to be doubtful of the efficacy of bike-sharing systems, until I visited Paris last year. The Velib system is amazing and, of the huge number of bicyclists on the streets of Paris, at least half of them were riding Velib bicycles. I got the sense that the city was pushed to become more bike-friendly and install new infrastructure as a response to the huge amount of bicyclists resulting from Velib. Could that happen in Chicago? I’m going to say – YES!

Read Trisha’s account of our Velib adventures HERE.  Read the whole article at the Chicago Tribune HERE.  Highly recommended reading. A+ to the Chicago Tribune: the article relays the facts and avoids manufacturing any awful debates.

Do you think a bike-sharing system can change a city?  Would you like to see one where you live?

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31 thoughts on “Large Scale Bike-Sharing System Announced for Chicago!

  1. Max_Paq says:

    Awesome news ! I can’t wait to see those bikes next summer, the bixi system in Montreal is 4-5 years old and after some trouble in the first year it really became a reliable and very popular system.

    Hoping they will deal with Montreal for the bikes (got to root for my home city right :P )

  2. Cheryl says:

    We used the Bixi system in Toronto this July and it was awesome. Easy, quick, affordable and fun. I would love it if we could do that here!

  3. Cheryl says:

    We used the Bixi system in Toronto this July and it was awesome. Easy, quick, affordable and fun. I would love it if we could do that here!

  4. Kate C. says:

    Gabe Klein was the head of our DOT here in DC before he came to Chicago. Our loss is definitely your gain. He also implemented a bike share system here (along with many other wonderful bicycle-friendly projects). It’s wonderful. I see the ubiquitous “red bikes” EVERYWHERE now, with all different types of people riding them–businessmen, hipsters, and your average

    working class joe. In fact, today was the one year “birthday” of Capital Bikeshare, and also saw it’s one millionth ride. Bikeshare is so popular, that its not unusual to arrive at a station and there are no bikes left. Capital Bikeshare (or “CaBi”) has implemented a re-balancing program where bikes are delivered to empty stations by van. There are plans to further expand the system (again) into Virginia and perhaps Maryland. I even converted some friends of mine into fans when they were here visiting DC-I convinced them that simply using a CaBi bike was much faster & cheaper than trying to hail a taxi. They were skeptical, but once they did it they realized I was right and had a blast.

    I also remember how fundamental CaBi has been with major events in DC. Not too long ago, we suffered a very unusual earthquake that caused our city to be thrown into a bit of chaos for a day. Public transportation such as the Metro was overloaded, and the streets were jammed with cars trying to get out of the city. Bikes saved the day! Especially CaBi, because many people who didn’t have their own decided it would be a perfect opportunity to try it out.

    Also, I remember the day that Osama Bin Laden was killed and crowds gathered at the White House to celebrate–CaBi’s were everywhere! It’s how people got there, since Metro was closed for the night.

    I’m a member of Capital Bikeshare even though I have several of my own bicycles. I don’t use the system that often, but when I do I am grateful that it is there. When I drop my bike off at a shop for repair/maintenance, I know I have a bike to ride back home. If I happen to get stuck somewhere without my bike, I know I can rely on Bikeshare.

    You guys are so lucky to have Gabe Klein working for you ;-)

  5. Kate C. says:

    Gabe Klein was the head of our DOT here in DC before he came to Chicago. Our loss is definitely your gain. He also implemented a bike share system here (along with many other wonderful bicycle-friendly projects). It’s wonderful. I see the ubiquitous “red bikes” EVERYWHERE now, with all different types of people riding them–businessmen, hipsters, and your average

    working class joe. In fact, today was the one year “birthday” of Capital Bikeshare, and also saw it’s one millionth ride. Bikeshare is so popular, that its not unusual to arrive at a station and there are no bikes left. Capital Bikeshare (or “CaBi”) has implemented a re-balancing program where bikes are delivered to empty stations by van. There are plans to further expand the system (again) into Virginia and perhaps Maryland. I even converted some friends of mine into fans when they were here visiting DC-I convinced them that simply using a CaBi bike was much faster & cheaper than trying to hail a taxi. They were skeptical, but once they did it they realized I was right and had a blast.

    I also remember how fundamental CaBi has been with major events in DC. Not too long ago, we suffered a very unusual earthquake that caused our city to be thrown into a bit of chaos for a day. Public transportation such as the Metro was overloaded, and the streets were jammed with cars trying to get out of the city. Bikes saved the day! Especially CaBi, because many people who didn’t have their own decided it would be a perfect opportunity to try it out.

    Also, I remember the day that Osama Bin Laden was killed and crowds gathered at the White House to celebrate–CaBi’s were everywhere! It’s how people got there, since Metro was closed for the night.

    I’m a member of Capital Bikeshare even though I have several of my own bicycles. I don’t use the system that often, but when I do I am grateful that it is there. When I drop my bike off at a shop for repair/maintenance, I know I have a bike to ride back home. If I happen to get stuck somewhere without my bike, I know I can rely on Bikeshare.

    You guys are so lucky to have Gabe Klein working for you ;-)

  6. Trisha says:

    Sweet! Can’t wait to see this.

  7. Kara says:

    This is awesome! I hope it would be easy for tourists to use too.

  8. Avieyr says:

    Don’t worry, it WILL change Chicago.
    BIXI is soooo popular it’s almost killing the project: they simply can’t keep up and every year we wonder whether it will fall victim of its own immense popularity.

  9. Montrealize says:

    Don’t worry, it WILL change Chicago.
    BIXI is soooo popular it’s almost killing the project: they simply can’t keep up and every year we wonder whether it will fall victim of its own immense popularity.

  10. Montrealize says:

    The sudden increase in the number of cyclists is forcing an acceleration in bike lanes/paths implementation. We have jam on the main bike routes now.

  11. Montrealize says:

    The sudden increase in the number of cyclists is forcing an acceleration in bike lanes/paths implementation. We have jam on the main bike routes now.

  12. Michael Richters says:

    If only this system was launching now instead of just being announced… I’ll be in Chicago with my family this weekend, and it would be nice to be able to use a bike share instead of renting a car. Of course, it wouldn’t really do the trick; we were in Montreal for several days this past summer, but I didn’t get to ride a BIXI bike once, because we had our two-year-old with us. I sure wish they had a few bikes with child seats on them…

  13. Matthew says:

    That’s exciting! The more accessible bikes are, and the more people who ride, the more people WILL ride. As more people start riding, they will demand better infrastructure for riding, and everyone wins.

    I’m an advocate for better bicycling infrastructure where I am in Providence, RI. One barrier for a lot of people is all of our hills. When I visited Chicago this summer, I was a little envious of the flatness… But I remember reading about Paris’s solution to hills including credits for leaving a bike at the top of a hill vs at the bottom. So there are ways to incentivise…

    Anyway, Yay Chicago!

  14. David says:

    This is very nice news to hear for Chicago. When I have visitors from out of town, for instance, who would enjoy getting around by bicycle, I don’t have to have a loaner bike on hand for everybody. Or if I’ve taken the CTA somewhere I can use it myself. Just got back from Barcelona where I saw their system (Bicing) in heavy use by all sorts of people.

  15. Michael says:

    I’m in DC too and I can corroborate how awesome it is. The CaBi bikes are so well designed too I can only hope Mr. Klein steers Chicago toward the company that uses them, Alta Bicycle Share.

    It’s too bad this won’t be until next summer. I’m tagging along with my wife on her business trip to Chicago next month, and will have the days free to ride around the city. Can’t wait!

    • Otter says:

      Michael,

      The city’s procurement system doesn’t allow anyone to steer business towards certain people, however good they may be. If they’re as good as indicated, hopefully they will manage to put together a successful bid.

  16. Lynn says:

    That’s exciting news. I hope they have some kind of option for tourists who don’t want to pay a full year’s membership. $75 is not bad at all, but if someone’s just in town for the weekend, $150 (assuming you travel with a significant other) is kind of steep to participate. Then again, there are probably smaller scale bicycle rentals somewhere in Chicago, right? I should figure this out for the next time I visit.

    • LGRAB says:

      It sounds like there will be options for tourists, because the article mentioned that instead of a yearly membership, users could pay by day or week. There are several bike rental places along the lakefront, but they’re pricey ($45-ish per day) and close early.

  17. Jeff R. says:

    So cool. I just got back from a trip to Colorado where B-Cycle has stations set up all over Boulder and Denver. I spent 3 days in Denver and NEVER touched a car because of the bike share network. It was fantastic and easy to use. They offer 24-hour, 10-day, 30-day and Annual access passes so tourists can get away with a $6 daily access fee. Combine that with 850 miles of bikeways and bike lanes in Denver and you have an excellent transportation system. I can see this taking on very well in Chicago.

  18. Pilypas2 says:

    I expect they will use the same 3 speed Trek city bikes that are available in the Denver/Boulder area. These are surprisingly nice one size fits all bikes with baskets, lights and fenders (though we seldom need these here). I can ride the same bike as my largish 8 year old and both of us are comfortable. Quite a feat.

    • Jeff R. says:

      I echo that. Those bikes were great. I’m 6’2″ and was very comfortable. The bikes are heavy as all get out but you do not notice it while riding. Load balance is great on the front rack and steering is a breeze.

    • Dukiebiddle says:

      I honestly don’t find those links too terribly interesting. Well, they inform me that bike share systems don’t pay for themselves and come with some difficulties, but that is neither surprising or disheartening. I think it is important to point out that the cities featured in those negative articles are all looking for ways to expand their bike share programs, which indicates to me that those cities consider the difficulties to be manageable.

  19. […] have a drinking and driving problem, then again, what state doesn’t? Looks like Chicago will be the next big city to get a bike share program. A Chicago cyclist takes Critical Mass to task, as well as repeatedly […]

  20. cycler says:

    I was not certain I’d use the Boston “Hubway” seeing as I mostly ride my own bike most places, but I’ve used it a surprising amount. If I take the train for some reason, it works great for a “last mile” solution, and just today I rented one for a friend so that she could accompany me across town to go bowling.

    It would also be great if I had a bike “in the shop” or other mechanical difficulties. I’m really glad I joined, and am so happy to see so many others using it- including a lot of people who don’t “look like” the kind of people who normally bike.

  21. Bob Parker says:

    We’ve had a nice plan here for a while:

    https://www.niceridemn.org/

    It’s growing all the time, and a real success. Part of what made me move here from Chicago was the bikeability of these Twin Cities. It’s wonderful here, and now it’s even better for people who don’t have a bike. Now you do!

  22. Bob Parker says:

    We’ve had a nice plan here for a while:

    https://www.niceridemn.org/

    It’s growing all the time, and a real success. Part of what made me move here from Chicago was the bikeability of these Twin Cities. It’s wonderful here, and now it’s even better for people who don’t have a bike. Now you do!

  23. MG says:

    I’m so excited for you all in Chicago, and thank you for this post!

    I agree w/ Kate C. We both live in DC, and I totally love how CaBi has transformed the city. Tourists and locals use it to get around town, and I use it as a back-up commuting system when I when I only want to ride one way. I’ve also used CaBi as a way to get to appointments during the day, in order not to have to lock my bike up outside. Often, it is just as fast as metro, and the rates are comparable and sometimes cheaper.

    I see CaBi as integrating itself into our city’s infrastructure, making improvements as it goes (as Kate C. discusses) to make sure that bikes are available throughout the city and during all parts of the day, and being a palatable alternative to metro, taxi, or even a tour bus.

    P.S. We miss Gabe Klein!!!

  24. […] an, ihr bestehendes – noch relativ kleines – Fahrradverleihsystem auf  einen Umfang von 5.000 Räder an 500 Stationen […]

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