It’s been more than two months since the Oak Park village board voted to end the Divvy bike-sharing program in Oak Park, and talk has already begun about replacing it with a cheaper alternative.
But some local bicycling advocates are telling officials to put the brakes on signing up for a different program and focus on the priorities laid out in the village’s 2015 Neighborhood Greenways plan, which calls for more bicycle lanes, bike-sharing and safer pedestrian access, among other things.
A new Oak Park group called Bike Walk Oak Park, formed under the guidance of the Chicago-based bicycling advocacy group, the Active Transportation Alliance, is pressing trustees to take the money saved by ending the Divvy program and put it toward something more important — bicycle infrastructure.
Oak Parker Ron Burke, who is executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance and a member of Bike Walk Oak Park, said about $200,000 was budgeted for the rest of the year for Divvy.
“We’ve asked the trustees to include a dedicated line item in the budget for the bike-walk infrastructure, starting with the $200,000 that had been approved for Divvy in 2018,” Burke said in an email, adding that “biking and walking deserves a fair share of the budget.”
Brian Crawford, a Bike Walk Oak Park co-chair, said the village should do thorough research on bike-sharing before dedicating to another program that may or may not work out.
Divvy was largely declared a failure by a majority of trustees in January because of low ridership and the $26,665-a-month price tag. Burke said Divvy could have been successful had the village focused more on its bicycling infrastructure and adding more Divvy stations — Oak Park had 13 total throughout the village, most in the downtown area.
He says Oak Park has the population density to support a bike-share program; the problem you need more people biking. “You’re not going to get more people biking without better bike routes,” he said in a telephone interview.
Every community has “confident cyclists,” who are comfortable riding on busy streets like Madison Street, but those riders are an “extreme minority”, he said.
A network of side streets, particularly Kenilworth, Harvey and Lombard avenues, and Harvard and Pleasant streets, are “low stress” roadways that connect across the village and have less traffic and are prime candidates for new bike lanes, Burke said.
The lanes would give riders more confidence and encourage riders to take shorter trips through town, according to Burke.
Jenna Holzberg, a co-chair of Bike Walk Oak Park, tells Wednesday Journal that while Bike Walk Oak Park supports bike-sharing and wants to see it implemented in the village eventually, her group wants to take a holistic approach toward bicycling in the village.
“For this to be a success there needs to be an infrastructure investment,” she said. “We’re pushing back on a quick run toward dockless.”
Trustees have discussed taking a closer look at dockless bike-share programs because of the substantially reduced cost, but some cities have had problems with the cheaper alternative because the bicycles pile up and often are left in disarray.
Maybe more importantly, Burke said, “We don’t want the village to use (dockless bike sharing) as an excuse not to build the bike network, which is most important.”
Crawford said the group will continue meeting with trustees and other officials with various government entities to encourage more investment in bicycling infrastructure.
Holzberg said they’re working to build a base of people who are knowledgeable, so they can advocate to various government entities. They’re partnering with the Interfaith Green Network, a coalition of congregations throughout the village that promotes various environmental initiatives.
“We want the village to understand that this is important,” Holzberg said. “It’s helpful to have a handful of us talking to a trustee, but it’s more powerful when the whole group is saying the same thing about the same values.”