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“The cost is outrageous,” Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said Monday night, as he cast the only vote against approval of a Divvy bike-sharing agreement for Evanston.

Wilson, an avid cyclist, said he was extremely excited about the bike-sharing concept when he first heard about it, but became “extraordinarily disappointed with the way the product has evolved and the cost.”

In addition, he suggested that the need to have trucks driving around all day to relocate bikes from one docking station to another wasn’t very environmentally friendly.

Divvy’s rate structure is designed to encourage cyclists to limit their rides to short commutes of 30 minutes or less.

A rider can buy a daily pass for $7 or an annual membership for $75. Both include unlimited trips of 30-minutes or less.

But penalty fees start piling up after that. For annual members they are $1.50 for the first half hour, $4.50 for the next half hour and $6 for every 30 minutes beyond that. For daily pass buyers the overage charges are even higher.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she was willing to support the program, but still worried about the penalties. “I think we’ll have a lot of young people using it who may not have a clue about the cost,” she added.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he was concerned that only one site is being proposed for the city’s west side, at Evanston Township High School, and said he had doubts about that location. .

The city’s sustainability coordinator, Catherine Hurley, said the system will provide lots of data on where bike rides start and end. She suggested that by next fall, after the system’s first warm-weather season, officials will be able to work with the system operator to shift resources around if needed.

Hurley also said the city would recruit businesses to sponsor the program as a way of covering expected shortfalls in operating revenue.

Evanston chose the Divvy system largely because it is already in use in Chicago — which meant riders will be able to use it to commute between the two adjacent communities.

Some other towns, including Madison, Wis., have managed to strike more financially favorable deals with a competing vendor. Bcycle, which is linked to Trek, the Waterloo, Wis.-based bike manufacturer.

Related story

Divvying up the Divvy bikes, and the cost


More coverage of the Divvy program.


Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. Evanston taxpayers divvy in more money on pet projects
    Bicycles, stations, docks and software for the Divvy bike sharing program filed for bankruptcy.

    The Evanston Council agreed to pitch in $80,000 for the initial DIvvy cost yet no stations will placed in the Sixth Ward — my ward.

    There’s a truck driving around around all day to relocate bikes from one docking station to another isn’t environmentally friendly. Who’s going to use Divvy in Evanston’s harsh winter?

    The Evanston Divvy program is also expected to generate rental fees covering ONLY about two-thirds of the annual estimated operating cost of $192,000. Who picks up the tab if Evanston Divvy loses money?

    Other than that, what could go wrong?

    1. Evanston picks up the tab,

      Evanston picks up the tab, just like all the other cities that have bought into the divvy program. At least, that is what I have read. It looks like the plan is to sell advertising to minimize Evanston's loses.

  2. Parking Spaces

    Will the City place these Divvy Stations in some Current Spaces. They are a bit big  and would take up quite a bit of the sidewalk space.

  3. Divvy Deal
    I used a similar bike share program in Minneapolis and rode extensively over a weekend. I returned home to a $90 usage fee. As a business traveler/tourist I could manage the fee and didn’t need to pay too much attention to the clock. But I could have bought a used bike for that price. As a resident it won’t provide much value to me. I have used bike share programs in a half dozen cities but never in Chicago. The value it could have is if it inspires Evanston and Chicago to improve bike lanes and trails between the neighboring cities. The current connection from Evanston’s lakefront to Chicago’s is a ridiculous maze. If politicians can improve that connection, the ambiguous public access to Northwestern’s lakefront, and the hidden access to the Green Bay Trail, then Evanston can begin to claim to be bike friendly, and perhaps the biking hub of the North Shore.

  4. Options to Terminate ?
    What options, including costs and possible dates, does the city have to end the program if it proves to be under used and too expensive ?
    I’d love to see more people use bikes but I’m sure this will not be the way to do it.
    I wonder if many people have bikes that they long ago realized they won’t use but don’t know how to get rid of them, in their garages/lockers that function but no one would steal.
    Perhaps the city can have a date people could bring them to City Hall and and same date(s) sell them on the spot to people who would want to buy them. This would seem a better solution. Maybe the Council could get the police department to donate bikes they recover instead of shipping them to a far away [1000+ miles] general auction house. NU might want to become part of this—they do have one(?) day a year when they sell abandoned bikes but I suspect they could participate on more than one date.

  5. Operating Costs

    Operating Costs estimate of $192,000. When costs increase and if revenue stays flat. City will always be stuck for the differance. Have the City Council thought this throught or are they just buying into what is being fed to them?

  6. Divvy bikes for Evanston

    I'm an annual subscriber to Divvy (now in my second year!) and have found it to be an invaluable service! The bikes are sturdy, dependable, affordable and convenient. The docking stations are placed in locations that are very helpful. In the 18 months I've been a member, there have been only one or two times that a docking station has been empty of bikes. I rode Divvy throughout the winter (even the polar vortex!) last year. Divvy has made it much easier for me to get around. I welcome Divvy to Evanston.

  7. Ald. Wilson’s Cost Comment
    When he said that the cost was outrageous, did he mean the operating costs of Divvy, or the cost to Divvy Riders?

    For its current level of usage in Chicago, the operating costs do seem quite high. My understanding is that the Divvy contract is $65M for 5 years, but this is offset by fees and ad revenue. There are about 25,000 annual members in Divvy. So for the 5 year cost they could buy every member a nice bike. However, the added benefit if Divvy is that it links to the existing mass transit system, which a personal bike does not. Also if membership can grow faster than the operating cost, then future efficiency gains might pay off.

    As for costs to riders, while the overtime fees can stack up, Divvy is pretty good about explaining these. Also, based on the detailed ride data which Divvy has made public (http://www.divvybikes.com/data) almost all of the late fees are incurred by people who use 1-day passes, and not annual subscribers. This is true for both young and old riders. At $75 per year for membership, the cost is much cheaper than parking.

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