Chicago’s Divvy bike sharing program may be coming to Evanston — if aldermen approve a grant application tonight.

The aldermen are scheduled to approve a request for federal transportation alternatives program funding to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

The proposed project would cost $472,500. The grant, if awarded, would cover 80 percent of the cost, with the city picking up the rest.

It would establish seven bicycle share stations at Evanston locations yet to be determined that would each have 10 three-speed bicycles.

Oak Park and the City of Chicago are also applying for grant funds under the program. Chicago would use its grant funds to extend its network — which as now planned extends only as far north as the Loyola University campus in Rogers Park and to Chicago’s near west side — to connect to the proposed systems in Oak Park and Evanston.

A staff memo on the project says Northwestern University has indicated an interest in partnering to bring the bike sharing system to town and that staff plans to contact the city’s other large employers to ask them to share in the program’s capital and operating expenses.

Annual operating costs for the Evanston system are estimated at $168,000.

Top: A Divvy bike. Above: A Divvy bike share station.

User fees for bike share systems and advertising revenue from the stations cover from 50 percent to 120 percent of operating systems in other communities that have them, the staff memo says, with systems the size of the one proposed for Evanston generally recovering 70 percent to 80 percent of their costs.

Chicago’s system is operated by Alta BikeShare, and the staff memo suggests that Evanston could either negotiate a separate contract with Alta, or piggy-back on Chicago’s agreement.

Based on a preliminary map included with the proposal, bike share stations would most likely be located at Metra and CTA stations, on the NU campus and at the lakefront.

The City Council is also scheduled to vote on two other transportation-related grant applications tonight.

One seeks federal funding through the state transportation department for a $1.86 million project to create a new bike path along Sheridan Road — largely on the parkway fronting the NU campus. The grant could cover up to 80 percent of the cost.

The other application seeks up to $200,000 from a state Department of Natural Resources program to renovate the Church Street boat ramp. That project is expected to cost $550,000 with the rest of the money coming from city capital improvement program funds.

More coverage of the Divvy program.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bikes

    Has anyone done a study to determine the actual use of these bikes? Is there any data of use by month,  day and weather? Is there any data about use by age and gender? 

    1. Bikes

      You can find some data about usage in the staff memo on the grant application — which starts at page 268 of the City Council packet.

      Among other things, it says that in the first month of operation for Chicago's program, people have taken 80,000 rides on the bikes from the 117 operating stations.

      — Bill

  2. Impact on traffic

    If I were on city council I would be interested in impact on traffic.  I would expect bike sharing to work well in a town with a university, and there would be a benefit to the public of reducing the number of cars on the road. 

    Madison WI has a bike share program.  If information about its impact were available from their experience with the program it would be more indicative of Evanston than Chicago.

    I use Divvy, the bike sharing program in Chicago, and like it. Alta, the company that manages the system, does a good job That is what is really critical to its success.  

    1. Not enough bike stations

      It is good that Evanston is getting this as it is a cheap and effective way to increase public transportation in the city.

      The problem is that the city isn't doing it right.  In order for the system to be effective you need kiosks more widely distributed throughout the city.  In Chicago, they are looking to have them every 1/4 mile.  Here we have 8 stations and key destinations like the main neighborhood shopping districts and big institutions like St. Francis Hospital are not even served.

      It is typical of the city—take a good idea, but implement it in such a way as to make it ineffective.

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