Chicago to launch bike-sharing program

September 21, 2011

Chicago’s Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday that the city will launch a large-scale bike-sharing program.  The initiative is part of a broader effort to make Chicago a more bike-friendly city; a goal Mayor Rahm Emanuel has considered a high priority.

Chicago B-cycle's rental program (Flickr/clarkmaxwell)The bike-sharing program is aiming to have 3,000 bikes and 300 stations by summer of next year. Today, the city issued a request for proposal seeking vendors to operate the program. 

“The locations have yet to be determined,” said Brian Steele, a CDOT spokesperson. He anticipates the stations being about a quarter-mile apart, and located in high density areas of business, retail and residences, as well as transit stations.

Last month, Emanuel debuted protected bike lanes on Kinzie between Wells and Milwaukee. "I announced in the campaign that we're going to do 25 miles of bike lanes a year," Emanuel said at the time. The Mayor said he wants 100 miles of these lanes before his first term ends.

Chicago will be following other cities such as Boston and Washington, D.C., which have already instituted bike-sharing programs. New York has also announced plans for a large-scale sharing system for next year. Their program will seek to put 10,000 bikes in the hands of New Yorkers.

Membership and user fees will be “affordable for Chicagoans and visitors alike,” according to a statement by CDOT.

There is already is a smaller, privately-owned bike rental program in Chicago operated by the firm Chicago B-cycle. 

The city anticipates the program being funded by federal grants aimed at improving air quality. 

In New York, some had griped that their bike-sharing program would take up scarce parking space.  This is a concern that Steele says won’t be an issue.  “We had a program for years, which included multi-space bike parking structures,” he said.  Some of these are visible at major “L” stations.

“By providing people with an alternative to automobile or cab, they are already taking up less space,” Steele said.

This story was corrected on September 22 at 1:37 p.m. An earlier version referred to the wrong location for the first protected bike lane.