Chicago's Divvy bike program expanding, could become nation's largest bike share system

November 6, 2013

Flickr/Zolk
One of the blue Divvy bikes from Chicago’s bike share program. There are currently 300 stations thoughtout Chicago, but thanks to federal funding, there will be 475 stations by next year.

Chicago’s Divvy bike program is expanding, thanks to federal funding which officials say could make it the largest bike-share system in North America.   

There are currently 300 Divvy stations up and running around Chicago, with 100 more stations in the works to be installed by next spring. Officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation said Wednesday they’ve secured a $3 million federal grant to build 75 additional stations next year, bringing the total to 475 by next year. The grant comes from the US Department of Transportation’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

So far, the U.S. DOT has provided $25 million dollars in federal grant funding toward the Divvy bike share program.

There’s been some criticism that Divvy stations are concentrated downtown, and don’t serve the south or west sides of the city. CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, speaking to alderman at his department’s city budget hearing Wednesday, said they’ll bring Divvy to Englewood by spring, and with this grant, they’ll be able to expand the program farther in all directions.

“Just like when you’re building the CTA or a bus network, you have to start in one place, usually the densest area like the Loop where all the CTA rail is,” Klein said. “But we’re gonna grow it out to the entire city overtime.”

When asked by alderman how much revenue Divvy has brought to the city, Klein said he couldn’t give an estimate until the bike share program had run for an entire year. But he says CDOT is close to signing an “eight-figure” sponsorship deal for the bikes by the end of this year. Klein says Divvy won’t lose its name or brand in the sponsorship. In New York, the bike-share system is sponsored by Citibank, and is called citibike.

In other Divvy news, Klein says two suburbs - Oak Park and Evanston - have submitted their own federal grant applications to put bikes in their neighborhoods.

Wednesday likely marked Klein’s last budget hearing in Chicago’s City Hall. He said this month that he’ll be stepping down from his post by Thanksgiving after serving for two and a half years. Klein’s said he’s stepping down for family obligations and plans to return to the private sector.

Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian