Divvy's demise exposes village drawbacks on biking

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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In 2014, the Active Transportation Alliance advised the village of Oak Park on an update to its bike plan and about where to locate Divvy stations. At the time, we said Divvy ridership would likely be so-so in the early years unless the bike plan was implemented in parallel to create more comfortable bike routes, and unless more stations were added to make additional trips feasible with Divvy.

Although bicycling is growing, surveys show that most people don't bike, and the main reason is fear of being hit by a car going to the store, school, etc. People won't ride bikes — Divvy or otherwise — if they don't have safe, connected bike routes that avoid heavy or fast-moving traffic. 

For the most part, we don't have that in Oak Park.

Moreover, many Oak Parkers, and others who work or visit here, would love to let Divvy worry about oiling the chain, airing the tires and locking the bike, but often the stations aren't near their trip origins and destinations. 

In short, successful bike share programs have better station coverage than Oak Park.

Given the cost reductions and revenue enhancements that village staff negotiated with Divvy, the influx of downtown residents who are likely to use Divvy, and the fact that cycling is a healthier and more sustainable alternative to driving, we thought it made sense to give Divvy in Oak Park another year.

That didn't happen as the board canceled Divvy. But trustees said they want to support cycling in Oak Park. That would be a welcome change! Oak Park spends millions of its own dollars annually to subsidize roads and parking, including parking spots that are empty much of the time, but spends very little of its own funds on dedicated biking and walking infrastructure (beyond standard sidewalks), instead relying primarily on relatively small and inconsistent state and federal grants.

Nearly all transportation infrastructure is subsidized by government. Biking and walking deserve their fair share and don't get it in Oak Park. Let's finally change that, starting with implementation of the village's bike plan, improving our busiest crosswalks, and ensuring that sidewalks are suitable for people with physical limitations.

Ron Burke

Executive director, Active Transportation Alliance

Oak Park

Reader Comments

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Tom MacMillan from 708-657-7615  

Posted: January 28th, 2018 10:55 AM

In short, if you want to ride a bike go buy yourself a bike.

Heinz Schuller from Oak Park  

Posted: January 28th, 2018 2:20 AM

Drivers looking at phones instead of the road. Bikers ignoring signals. These are the main risk factors. Until you get past that street markings won't really impact much.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: January 27th, 2018 4:00 PM

I never quite understood the "safe, connected bike route" argument when biking local. When I bike to the Desplaines Trail or Prairie Path from east OP, I take side streets all the way. Randolph/Forest/VB gets me to IPP with maybe a 4 block stretch of minor traffic. Greenfield/Thomas provide similar experience up north. Going to Desplaines requires no busy streets at all. Never once have I considered riding busy streets like Jackson or Ridgeland, 2 streets with dedicated bike lanes, to get to either path. At the Blue Line rebuild meetings, I actually suggested a dedicated bike path at track level. All I got was strange looks. Such a dedicated trail away from traffic would be a boon for Divvy and biking around here in general.

Andy Moss  

Posted: January 27th, 2018 1:49 PM

I agree with ATA's assessment. And I would add that the placement of Divvy stations in OP was flawed. Stations were concentrated at destinations, but few were in neighborhoods. This made Divvy an unattractive option for local people to get from their homes to the El or downtown OP. Divvy is not a good option if it takes you as long to get to Divvy on foot as it does to get to your destination. Also, OP does not have a Lake Front Path or 606 or Major Taylor Trail to attract tourism and make riding enjoyable for the masses. In both the City and Evanston, Divvy stations are in both destinations and in the neighborhoods. This is what makes it work. I cycle nearly every week day between Oak Park and the Loop to get to my job. I view Oak Park as far less bike-friendly than Chicago. Our bike lanes and routes rarely connect, and there are few good N-S streets for riding. Drivers in OP are on whole less tolerant of cyclists and more aggressive. Which is all a shame because OP is just the right size to make cycling a great way to get around. It takes very little time to ride to downtown OP, you never get stuck in traffic, and it costs nothing to park.

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