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City Council approved an application for grant funds for a shared bike program that would tie the City in with the Chicago Divvy bike network by bringing an eight-station pilot program to the City. If the grant is approved, the City would be required to provide a 20 percent cost match, or about $100,000. Shared bikes are rented for 30 minutes and then returned to another station and locked into place until the next rider checks them out. Users can rent bikes for individual trips, or pay $75 per year for unlimited 30-minute trips.  Bike-share systems are spreading across the country and have recently appeared in Chicago.

The locations initially proposed for the seven stations – all clustered downtown, near Northwestern and along Central Street – did not go over well with the Administration and Public Works Committee “How could you present a map like that? I want to know why,” said a visibly angry Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. The implication, she said, is that people on the south side of town do not ride bikes.

“It’s glaring that there’s nothing on the west side of town, either,” said Alderman Holmes, 5th ward.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz took the blame, saying the City wanted the pilot project to be successful and expected ridership to be greatest in the areas selected for stations. Catherine Hurley, the City’s Sustainability Coordinator, originally proposed a 14-station pilot project, but staff determined the cost would be too high.
According to the staff presentation accompanying, each station costs about $70,000 – and the City will pay 20 percent of that. The bikes themselves cost about $1,200 each, because they are designed to withstand all types of weather and have all cables and parts contained within the bike frame.

The memo estimates the program will operate at a loss of about $7,000 per station. The cost of maintenance and the contract with Divvy will be about $24,000 per station, but each station is expected to bring in only about $16,000 per year in rental fees and pro rata annual contracts.

The pilot project, if it goes forward, will determine the amount of the loss. Staff stressed that the station locations contemplated in the memo are subject to change. By the time the full Council meeting rolled around, they already had – a station was added near Howard and Chicago and a station shifted from Davis Street, where two were proposed, to Greenleaf and Chicago near Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Jewel.

Locations are apt to shift further should the project roll on.