Trading one bike for another.
In short, the functionality was everything I expected it to be.
I biked to the station at Damen Ave & Pierce St (Damen Blue Line station), locked my WorkCycles Fr8 to a potential sucker pole (it still had its bolt), grabbed my tote bag from its basket and stuffed that into the oddly shaped carrier on the Divvy bicycle. I inserted my key into the slot and waited for the green light. I only saw yellow. It was either never going to turn green on this bike, or I didn’t wait long enough. I tried the next bike and it unlocked.
To undock, lift the bicycle by its saddle and pull backwards. I adjusted the seat to its maximum. I also adjusted the quick release because someone had loosened it so it wouldn’t tighten the seat post. Off I went, through the congested streets of Wicker Park.
I wanted to hit up every dock on my way to my destination: Eckhart Park. My friend told me this station wasn’t there although the map said a couple of days ago it was there. Divvy’s spokesperson, Elliot Greenberger, told me it was moved from the corner of Chicago Ave & Noble St to inside the park (east of the field house) for traffic safety reasons that he didn’t specify in the quick email. The station was offline.
On the way I stopped at the station outside the Walgreens at Wood St & Milwaukee Ave. I returned my bike and checked it out less than 5 seconds later – this is called docksurfing (thanks Doug). I biked over to the next station on the way to the park: Noble St & Milwaukee Ave.
Rebalancing by removing bikes from this station to take them to another.
There was a guy here with one of the blue Sprinter vans loading bikes into the van. I asked if he was rebalancing. Yep. I asked how many could fit inside: “22 if I’m lazy, or 24 if I play Tetris right”. He asked me what I was doing and I said I was trying Divvy for the first time. He said “Have a great ride!” Aw, how nice.
I found the station at Eckhart Park just as it started raining. But like most storms this week, it stopped raining after 5-10 minutes. I got nervous because I didn’t know when I checked out this bike and I didn’t want to run over my free 30 minute period. I’ll have to pay better attention next time and perhaps get this kitchen timer on a rope (it has a magnet, too; thanks for the idea, Robert).
I biked the Divvy steed over Noble Street’s potholes, cracks, and bumps, with extreme comfort and agility. My WorkCycles Fr8 isn’t this comfortable (except it better matches my height). The aluminum frame and wide Schwalbe tires wonderfully absorb bumps. I docked the bike, then sat on it and texted a few more people about how cool Divvy is. After a couple minutes, I checked out the same bike and rode it back over to Damen Ave & Pierce St. I traded back to my Fr8 and came home.
The awkward carrier, but it held my tote bag.
Whining about the bike as being heavy is uncalled for: many of the bikes people ride in Chicago are within 25% of the weight of a Divvy (which is around 45 pounds). Think about all those vintage Schwinns people are riding: they weigh the same yet Divvy rolls so much smoother and more comfortably and it won’t flat as often. Then there’re the mountain bikes from department stores like Walmart and Target. Those have no consideration of longevity, efficiency, or “weight savings”: they’re just as heavy and wear out within a year. The Divvy bike, I believe, is the first universally-designed setup I’ve seen. Bicycle shops will be doing themselves a service to stock the closest-feeling bike as some Divvy members are going to migrate to owning their bicycle and will seek the Divvy equivalent.
What I dislike about the Divvy bicycles is its low gearing. My average speed was less than 10 MPH while on my Fr8 it’s just over 12 MPH. Whatever. In most places in Chicago, you shouldn’t be going fast because you won’t be able to spot and anticipate all the drivers who have inattentional blindness and won’t see you before dooring you or swerving into your path.
I saw one other person riding a Divvy on my short (less than 45 minutes) journey on Divvy in Wicker Park and around Eckhart Park.
An app that shows real-time availability is available in Cyclefinder, but the Divvy staff didn’t promote this until people inquired on Twitter and Facebook. The app was updated by the Divvy hardware vendor on June 21 to include the Chicago system in the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store, but you had to search for “divvy” to find it and since it wasn’t branded as “Divvy” I bet a lot of people avoided installing it.
You can also buy and download my app, the Chicago Bike Guide, which has Divvy station location integrated (read how). However, I must warn you that it’s already slightly out of date and I’m working on fixing this. I’m also working on real-time availability as I’ve just discovered the API. This is going to take me at least a week.
Don’t forget there’s a hidden bell by your left thumb.