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Cruisin’ with Divvy

Visit Chicago this year before the weather gets too cold, and you’re likely to see people riding around on some new light-blue bikes. A new bicycle-sharing system called Divvy has spread throughout the city and allows riders to check out bikes from around a hundred different stations.

Divvy lets you purchase a 24-hour pass for $7. During those 24 hours, you can take as many bike trips as you want, but the trips can only last for 30 minutes. Divvy charges extra for longer trips. This time limit prevents you from hanging onto bikes when you’re not riding them (e.g. if you’ve stopped for lunch) and gives other riders the chance to use them during that time.

On a recent visit to Chicago, I used Divvy one night to explore some of the city. Starting at a station by my hotel at Merchandise Mart, I rode east toward Navy Pier. I found the bike to be comfortable and practical. Similar in style to a cruiser, it had a single speed, hand brakes, and an adjustable seat. Before getting to the pier, I docked the bike at a nearby station and checked out a new one to reset my time. Because it was dark by this time, I was happy to have front and rear lights that turned on automatically. I headed south to Grant Park, realizing the value of the bell as I passed groups of pedestrians. From there, I headed into the Loop and then back north to my hotel.

Overall, I enjoyed the bikes themselves but disliked how frequently I needed to find a docking station to check in. My trip took a little over two hours, and I had to deal with six different docking stations. Although I had a bike for 30 minutes at a time, I really only experienced 15-20 minutes of freedom. After that, it was really time to find the nearest station and ride over to it. I tried to leave a few minutes to spare as well, since I didn’t want to be charged extra. An hour-long time limit would have served me much better.

Another time, I used Divvy to meet friends in Wicker Park after work. I was running late, and Google Maps told me that regular transit would take 35 minutes. Instead, I checked out a bike from a station that was within a block of me and got there in 20 minutes. I didn’t mind that it cost more than the train, given the time savings, and I could’ve taken another bike back for free if I needed to. Overall, I thought Divvy worked much better in this situation than in the extended city tour I tried to have with it the first time.