Recently, the U.S. Census reported that there are now 60% more bicycle commuters in Chicago than there were 10 years ago.
Now that it’s warming up (ish), you could be one of them! So break out (or purchase) that Divvy membership that’s been neglected alongside your swimsuits, sunblock and Summer Shandy since October and Divvy where you’re going using these helpful tips:
- Before you venture out, download one of the several free Divvy bike apps to your phone. Apps like Chicago Bike, Divvy Bike Locator or Univelo Chicago give you access to crucial Divvy information like how many bikes or empty racks are available and exactly where they’re located. This info is essential for avoiding over-charges by staying within your 30-minute time limit (Truth. You only get 30 minutes before charges start adding up.)
- Warning: 30 minutes goes by in a flash so plan your route beforehand. Divvy bikes weren’t designed for leisurely tourist riding like Bike and Roll and some others in the city. Divvy bikes are for getting somewhere. So figure out where you’re going and use one of the apps above, this handy cycling map or actually plan your route using Ride the City. Some streets (like Milwaukee Ave) are much more bike-friendly than others, with actual protected lanes. And for the love of everything, do NOT end up biking on Lakeshore Drive.
- Select your bike, strap your bag into the basket and adjust the seat BEFORE swiping your key or your credit card and checking it out. You don’t want to waste those first precious minutes of your rental standing at the station. Plus, the bike seats can be tough to raise and lower and selecting a different bike may be easier than pulling all of your arm muscles. It's also wise to do a quick once-over of the bike to make sure there's no obvious damage or problems.
- Bring a helmet to wear, you fools. Divvy does not rent helmets alongside their bikes so definitely bring your own. Even the Lakeshore path at a leisurely hour contains perils (like cement that will crack your skull and dogs on leashes that will trip you up) so protect your brain and wear a helmet, please.
Familiarize yourself with the Divvy riding tips and FAQs before heading out. Knowing what to do if a Divvy station is full, for example, will save you time, money and lots of frustration. (FYI - There is a selection you can make at the station kiosk called "Station Full" to alert Divvy and get 15 extra minutes on your rental in order to make it to the next available station.)
And perhaps most importantly, educate yourself on the rules of the road for cyclists. Remember, you’re sharing the same roads with rage-filled cabbies, new-to-the-wheel 16-year olds and people coming home from the bars. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible on how to stay safe is your best, and arguably only, defense against objects 10 times your size. There are great resources for beginning cyclists through the City of Chicago, Streetsblog Chicago and many more.