Divvy Review, From a Traveler’s Perspective:
The streets are crowded and parking is expensive. Owning a vehicle in the heart of downtown Chicago is not always the most convenient thing. Public transportation and taxis are great, but sometimes being outside is preferred. Divvy has given Chicago a convenient alternative to public transportation however, it is not perfect.
They have taken steps in the right direction by tapping into Chicago’s ever expanding bicycle transportation grid. Lanes are prevalent throughout downtown, and make pedaling relatively easy and safe. Some areas you must share lanes with vehicles that requires you being 100% aware of your surroundings and hoping that drivers are as well. Honestly, I had not biked around Chicago before so I was very intrigued by my first Divvy experience.
Divvy station mapThey have stations spread throughout the city, which is very convenient. Most of the drop-off locations were within a few blocks of where I was looking to go.
You can find a complete MAP OF DIVVY STATIONS on their website. Plus, they also have an Divvy Android app and various Divvy iOS apps that makes tracking down stations a breeze.
Divvy Public Bike Share Chicago rules and regulationsOne of the first things you will notice is the big sign that goes over the rules, pricing, and convinces you that riding bike is much quicker than walking. The price point is a major turn-on, I will certainly give it that. If you need to cruise around a lot within a respectable radius, you can snag a Divvy bike for the entire day for the price of one cab. The catch you must dock the bike up at a station every 30-minutes, otherwise you are charged a surplus fee. It is not a terrible fee, but still a fee none the less.
I cannot help but think that if you are going to go the Divvy route, it would be handy to have a bike lock with you if you intend to make quick stops. Many times I would put the bike in a dock, walk a block or three to my destination, complete my task within a few minutes then have to walk back to the station to go through the entire process once again. If your destinations are close to each other, walking may be quicker than trying to Divvy it up to each one. If I would have had a bike lock with me, I would have been able to make multiple stops very easily within the 30-minute period.
The process is not terribly long, especially after the initial purchase. You essentially choose your language, swipe your card, enter some information, accept some terms and it will give you your first code to release a bike. The code is valid for 5-minutes. If for some reason you get distracted and need a new code, just select the new code option, swipe your card, and poof new code.
The 5-digit code is then typed into the key-pad of whatever bike you decide to be your chariot. The light turns green and you yank the bike out and pedal away. That is what is suppose to happen at least. There was one station that would not accept my code for the life of me. I tried it on all of the bikes 5 total. It was a no go. I figured it was just a random fluke, so I went back and requested a new pin. Still nothing. This set me back more minutes than I was looking to waste, so I flagged down a cab and headed out.
The cab cost me about the same as a 24-hour Divvy pass, but hey at least it was reliable when I needed it.
I was dropped off, did my deeds and then pulled up my app to find the nearest Divvy station. Fortunately, this station worked spot on.
One of my complaints is the speed of the bikes though. I understand that they want to minimize risk, but at the same time I snag a bike to try to beat traffic.
I used the iOS speedometer app FAST to figure out the top speed. From testing the app with cars and motorcycles, I can say that it is ridiculously accurate. I pedaled strong, made sure it was in the right gear (there are 3 total) and I was quickly pedaling quicker than the bike could handle. Top speed, 15mph. Not horrible, not great. I am just one that likes to book it.
With the thicker tires and stout frame, it is a workhorse that is made to battle the imperfections that are found in Chicago’s roads.
Now to put commuting purposes aside. Snagging a Divvy to just explore is pretty awesome. I spent time just cruising around downtown, and I spent time on the Lakefront Trail.
No agenda, no rush.
If someone is looking to actually see the city, this is the way to do it sans roof.
From a traveler’s perspective, having to dock the bike up every 30-minutes (to avoid extra fees) is not the biggest nuisance. It was actually a reason to explore. I would dock up the Divvy and wander around the block to see what was near. Many of times, I would just open up the app, pick a station and walk to it taking in the sights along the way.
Divvy stepped up their service by starting a bike valet. Basically, they have staff that hang around some of their busiest stations, during the busiest times of the day. Once all of the docks are full, they remove bikes and load them into their trusty van to assure room for new Divvys to dock up. If it was not for this service, people would be forced to either wait around for an open dock, or they would have to bike to another location and walk / taxi to their destination.
Divvy is doing a good deed with this addition.
My explorations with Divvy I am chalking up as a success. They have their hiccups, but they have their benefits. In certain circumstances, they somewhat flopped (the code not working), but in others they provided a quality experience. They have been serving Chicago for just over a year now, and I do believe that they are a valuable addition to public transportation. Getting familiar with them will only further the experience by allowing you to figure out how they can fit into your life. You may want to go for a leisurely pedal, or prefer to enjoy the summer weather outside rather than a taxi use your legs to their potential and Divvy it up.