Divvy out, but not biking

Opinion: Editorials

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By the time you read this, the last of the light blue Divvy bikes that have dotted Oak Park for the past year will have been carted off and presumably slipped into docking stations in city neighborhoods where Divvy has been better received.

It was just a week back that the Oak Park Village Board, in a narrowly split vote, chose not to renew its contract with Divvy, apparently not persuaded by the company's lackluster offer of a 10 percent discount on a new pact. 

It's not often that the Journal offers an "on the one hand this/on the other hand that" type of editorial. What's the point of that, after all? But we are legitimately split on how Divvy arrived in Oak Park and, now, how it is exiting.

We are all in on sustainability. Pro-actively encouraging biking and walking is essential as a defining aspect of life in Oak Park. And that means more than just some good words and painting a few stripes and declaring bike lanes. It means making investments in bike infrastructure the same way we pay millions to maintain roads for automobiles. 

But sustainability also applies to the mid- and long-term use of taxpayer dollars to heavily subsidize a Divvy program that likely wasn't a perfect fit for an inner-ring suburb. We're not convinced that Oak Park has the density of residents or tourists to support this program. What works in the West Loop or the Museum Campus is not so simply translated to Oak Park. 

Divvy rode fast into Oak Park and Evanston as the program made its initial excursion out of the city center. We don't believe it was studied thoroughly. We don't believe Divvy was nimble or invested enough to adapt to this village.

There are, shame on us for just discovering, other bike-sharing programs out there that offer more flexibility for riders and less taxpayer funding than Divvy. Trustee Andrea Ott, a proponent for continuing Divvy through this year, is leading an effort to study alternatives. That's good work.

This moment's reality is that there is a heightened concern about government spending by all local taxing bodies. There's going to be more scrutiny and programs deemed discretionary — e.g. bike-sharing, wayfinding signage — are going to be on the bubble. That's OK. Up to a point.

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