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A huge expansion could bring Divvy bikes to every Chicago ward by 2021

Written by
Marty Johnson

Pretty soon, you may finally be able to find a Divvy bike no matter where you happen to be in Chicago. Last week, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Department of Transportation proposed a massive amendment that would significantly alter the city's current contract with Lyft, which last year acquired Motivate—the company that operates the city's Divvy bike-sharing system.

Under the proposal, Lyft would invest $50 million in 10,500 new electric pedal-assist bikes and 175 new docking stations over the next three years. This huge investment would put Divvy bikes in all 50 wards of Chicago by 2021, fulfilling the program's promise of providing an alternative mode of transportation to every part of the city. As part of the deal, Lyft would become the new sponsor of Divvy (replacing the current sponsor, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois) and gain the right to plaster its logo on every one of the bright blue bikes.

For those wondering, electric pedal-assist bikes (e-bikes for short) aren't motorcycles—instead, they use a small motor that makes pedaling easier and allow riders to cruise through the streets at faster speeds. E-bikes have been shown to reduce commute times, but the higher traveling speeds could cause more accidents, especially on the packed streets of downtown Chicago. New bikes joining the Divvy fleet will also sport a hybrid locking technology that would allow riders to lock bikes to conventional bike racks. In theory, this could make it possible to simply lock up a Divvy bike rather than returning it to a dock, similar to the dockless bike-sharing programs that were tested on the city's South Side last year.

In addition to the citywide Divvy access, the proposed amendment would also bring a considerable amount of revenue to the city. If the City Council approves the plan, Chicago will receive $77 million in direct revenue over the next nine years, which would be spent on further improvements to the city's public transit infrastructure.

Lyft isn't walking away empty-handed in the deal, which would give the ride share company exclusive rights to be the only bike-share provider in Chicago until its contract with city expires in 2028. If City Council approves the amendment, it would effectively block companies like LikeBike and Ofo from operating dockless bike-sharing fleets in the city.

With the prospect of Divvy's new e-bikes hitting the streets and an inevitable wave of electric scooters on the way, maybe it's time for someone to get a helmet-sharing program off the ground?

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