I wrote, in August, about Chicago's push to be greener by building several miles of protected bike lanes, and now Chicago has a new way of getting greener and possibly putting those protected bike lanes into use. Chicago plans on launching a bike share system in the spring of 2013. The City will own the bikes and stations, but Alta Bicycle Share, the operator of the bike share program in Portland, will actually operate the program. The program isn't free, but the costs of operating it are expected to be covered by user fees (a yearly membership fee will be $75 and a daily pass will be $7). The City also hopes to gain revenue in naming rights, advertising and/or corporate partnerships.
The City hopes that the program will grow to include 400 stations placed all across the city with 4,000 bicycles in daily use. Bike share bikes will be of high-quality and feature wide seats, three speeds, and a front rack for carrying things among other features. The bike share centers will be placed near transit stations, parks and schools. Stations are high-tech (wireless and solar-powererd) and easy to install. Most stations will have around 15 - 19 docks, with guaranteed open docks at each station for returning bikes. Docks and stations will operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year, but might be partially shutdown during winter. Each station will also have a map of the other stations, so users know where they can return the bikes. Bike share program users can rent a bike by swiping their membership key or purchasing a pass at a kiosk to unlock a bike from a dock. Users can then return the bike by placing it into an empty dock at a station near their destination.
To get people riding and using, first-time users get their first 30 minutes FREE. The City is asking for feedback and there are a couple of meetings happening in Chicago over the next two weeks that residents should actively participate in to make sure the program is successful AND inclusive. The first one is on Monday, Oct. 29 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at Chicago Architecture Foundation on 224 S. Michigan Avenue. Then later on the 29th from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at a pop-up meeting at Union Station, and one more time on the 29th from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. again at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Another meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m at Lincoln Belmont Public Library on 1659 W. Melrose Street. The final meeting will be on tuesday, Nov. 7 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m at the Charles Hayes Center on 4859 S. Wabash Avenue.
City residents can also go on to http://share.chicagobikes.org, and suggest locations for the stations. Yet, that is where the program raises issues. The bike station suggestions are concentrated the expected areas (Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Downtown). However, they should be present ALL over the city. Clearly, downtown is going to have the strongest concentration, but that does not mean other areas of the city should be ignored. There should also be more price options, and employers should be able to buy bulk passes for their workers and the city should subsidize the rates for students and those struggling financially. That would lead to a great, inclusive bike share experience in the City of Chicago.