Tagbike sharing

Developing a method to score Divvy station connectivity

A Divvy station at Halsted/Roscoe in Boystown, covered in snow after the system was shutdown for the first time to protect workers and members. Photo by Adam Herstein.

In researching for a new Streetsblog Chicago article I’m writing about Divvy, Chicago’s bike-share system, I wanted to know which stations (really, neighborhoods) had the best connectivity. They are nodes in a network and the bike-share network’s quality is based on how well (a measure of time) and how many ways one can move from node to node.

I read Institute for Transportation Development Policy’s (ITDP) report “The Bike-Share Planning Guide” [PDF] says that one station every 300 meters (984 feet) “should be the basis to ensure mostly uniform coverage”. They also say there should be 10 to 16 stations per square kilometer of the coverage area, which has a more qualitative definition. It’s really up to the system designer, but the report says “the coverage area must be large enough to contain a significant set of users’ origins and destinations”. If you make it too small it won’t meaningfully connect places and “the system will have a lower chance of success because its convenience will be compromised”. (I was inspired to research this after reading coverage of the report in Next City by Nancy Scola.)

Since I don’t yet know the coverage area – I lack the city’s planning guide and geodata – I’ll use two datasets to see if Chicago meets the 300 meters/984 feet standard.

Dataset 1

The first dataset I created was a distance matrix in QGIS that measured the straight-line distance between each station and its eight nearest stations. This means I would cover a station in all directions, N, S, E, W, and NW, NE, SE, and SW. Download first dataset, distance matrix.

Each dataset offers multiple ways to gauge connectivity. The first dataset, using a straight-line distance method, gives me mean, standard deviation, maximum value, and minimum value. I sorted the dataset by mean. A station with the lowest mean has the greatest number of nearby stations; in other words, most of its nearby stations are closer to it than the next station in the list.

Sorting the first dataset by lowest mean gives these top five best-connected stations:

  1. Canal St & Monroe St, a block north of Union Station (191), mean of 903.96 feet among nearest 8 stations
  2. Clinton St & Madison St, outside Presidential Towers and across from Northwestern Train Station (77), 964.19 feet
  3. Canal St & Madison St, outside Northwestern Train Station (174), 972.40
  4. Canal St & Adams St, north side of Union Station’s Great Hall (192), 982.02
  5. State St & Randolph St, outside Walgreens and across from Block 37 (44), 1,04.19

The least-connected stations are:

  1. Prairie Ave & Garfield Blvd (204), where the nearest station is 4,521 feet away (straight-line distance), or 8.8x greater than the best-connected station, and the mean of the nearest 8 stations is 6,366.82 feet (straight-line distance)
  2. California Ave & 21st St (348), 6,255.32
  3. Kedzie Ave & Milwaukee Ave (260), 5,575.30
  4. Ellis Ave & 58th St (328), 5,198.72
  5. Shore Drive & 55th St (247), 5,168.26

Dataset 2

The second dataset I manipulated is based on Alex Soble’s DivvyBrags Chrome extension that uses a distance matrix created by Nick Bennett (here’s the file) that estimates the bicycle route distance between each station and every other station. This means 88,341 rows! Download second dataset, distance by bike – I loaded it into MySQL to use its maths function, but you could probably use python or R.

The two datasets had some overlap (in bold), but only when finding the stations with the lowest connectivity. In the second dataset, using the estimated bicycle route distance, ranking by the number of stations within 2.5 miles, or the distance one can bike in 30 minutes (the fee-free period) at 12 MPH average, the following are the top five best-connected stations:

  1. Ogden Ave & Chicago Ave, 133 stations within 2.5 miles
  2. Green St & Milwaukee Ave, 131
  3. Desplaines St & Kinzie St, 129
  4. (tied) Larrabee St & Kingsbury St and Carpenter St & Huron St, 128
  5. (tied) Clinton St & Lake St and Green St & Randolph St, 125

Notice that none of these stations overlap with the best-connected stations and none are downtown. And the least-connected stations (these stations have the fewest nearby stations) are:

  1. Shore Drive & 55th St, 11 stations within 2.5 miles
  2. (tied) Ellis Ave & 58th St and Lake Park Ave & 56th St, 12
  3. (tied) Kimbark Ave & 53rd St and Blackstone Ave & Hyde Park Blvd and Woodlawn Ave & 55th St, 13
  4. Prairie Ave & Garfield Blvd, 14
  5. Cottage Grove Ave & 51st St, 15

This, the second dataset, gives you a lot more options on devising a complex or weighted scoring system. For example, you could weight certain factors slightly higher than the number of stations accessible within 2.5 miles. Or you could multiply or divide some factors to obtain a different score.

I tried another method on the second dataset – ranking by average instead of nearby station quantity – and came up with a completely different “highest connectivity” list. Stations that appeared in the least-connected stations list showed up as having the lowest average distance from that station to every other station that was 2.5 miles or closer. Here’s that list:

  1. Kimbark Ave & 53rd St – 13 stations within 2.5 miles, 1,961.46 meters average distance to those 13 stations
    Blackstone Ave & Hyde Park Blvd – 13 stations, 2,009.31 meters average
    Woodlawn Ave & 55th St – 13 stations, 2,027.54 meters average
  2. Cottage Grove Ave & 51st St – 15 stations, 2,087.73 meters average
  3. State St & Kinzie St – 101 stations, 2,181.64 meters average
  4. Clark St & Randolph St – 111 stations, 2,195.10 meters average
  5. State St & Wacker Dr – 97 stations, 2,207.10 meters average

Back to 300 meters

The original question was to see if there’s a Divvy station every 300 meters (or 500 meters in outlying areas and areas of lower demand). Nope. Only 34 of 300 stations, 11.3%, have a nearby station no more than 300 meters away. 183 stations have a nearby station no further than 500 meters – 61.0%. (You can duplicate these findings by looking at the second dataset.)

Concluding thoughts

ITDP’s bike-share planning guide says that “residential population density is often used as a proxy to identify those places where there will be greater demand”. Job density and the cluster of amenities should also be used, but for the purposes of my analysis, residential density is an easy datum to grab.

It appears that stations in Woodlawn, Washington Park, and Hyde Park west of the Metra Electric line fare the worst in station connectivity. The 60637 ZIP code (representing those neighborhoods) contains half of the least-connected stations and has a residential density of 10,468.9 people per square mile while 60642, containing 3 of the 7 best-connected stations, has a residential density of 11,025.3 people per square mile. There’s a small difference in density but an enormous difference in station connectivity.

However, I haven’t looked at the number of stations per square mile (again, I don’t know the originally planned coverage area), nor the rise or drop in residential density in adjacent ZIP codes.

There are myriad other factors to consider, as well, including – according to ITDP’s report – current bike mode share, transit and bikeway networks, and major attractions. It recommends using these to create a “demand profile”.

Station density is important for user convenience, “to ensure users can bike and park anywhere” in the coverage area, and to increase market penetration (the number of people who will use the bike-share system). When Divvy and the Chicago Department of Transportation add 175 stations this year – some for infill and others to expand the coverage area – they should explore the areas around and between the stations that were ranked with the lowest connectivity to decrease the average distance to its nearby stations and to increase the number of stations within 2.5 miles (the 12 MPH average, 30-minute riding distance).

N.B. I was going to make a map, but I didn’t feel like spending more time combining the datasets (I needed to get the geographic data from one dataset to the other in order to create a symbolized map). 

Citibike in New York City differs slightly from Chicago’s Divvy

I visited New York City two weekends ago for a Streetsblog writers conference. I was there for three nights and four days. To get around I put a bunch of cash on a Metrocard to use the subway and JFK Airtrain and I bought a 7-day pass for the Citibike bike-share system.

Citibike and Divvy in Chicago use nearly identical equipment from the same manufacturer, and Alta Bicycle Sharing operates both systems. Citibike sells the 7-day pass for $25, a relative steal for personal transportation costs in New York City – probably any city. Divvy only offers 24-hour and annual passes.

Citibike stations have maps of a better design that matches the walking wayfinding stanchions that New York City’s Department of Transportation has installed. The stations integrate the ad+map board onto the kiosk while Divvy has separated them. I don’t see an operational advantage to either design, but there does seem to be less material used in Citibike’s integrated design which uses one fewer solar panel.

I’ve never used Divvy’s touch-screen kiosk to obtain a single ride code as part of using a day pass so I can’t compare it to interacting with the Citibike kiosk to obtain the ten or so ride codes I needed on my trip. This was the most infuriating part of the experience, which annual members don’t experience because they have a key: the kiosk is very slow in responding to a tap and sometimes the docking bay wouldn’t accept my brand new ride code. You can’t get a replacement ride code for two minutes, preventing quick dock surfing.

The bicycles seem exactly the same: too small of a gear ratio which means a slow top speed and an easy-to-reach “over pedaling” threshold. This may be more important for New York City to have because you must climb 140 feet up the bridges to cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens while Chicago has no significant slopes. I eventually stopped using Citibike in favor of the subway and walking. I like riding trains almost as much as I like riding a bicycle and cycling in downtown Manhattan is difficult if you’re unsure of a good route to get to your destination. I prefer to not use an app for directions because of how frequently the turns appear meaning I have to inspect the app just as often to ensure I made the right one.

I’d like to see my Divvy key work in other cities where Alta operates bike-sharing. Just charge my bank card on file, applying the lowest-cost pass and letting me bypass the user agreements before purchasing a pass in another city.

That wasn’t a joyride on Lake Shore Drive

Video starts at Ohio Street (you can see the W Hotel after the curve at Ontario Street); the camera holder and driver speak with expletives.

Craig Newman at the Sun Times is wrong about the person in this video, who was filmed riding a Divvy bike-share bike along the jersey barrier on northbound Lake Shore Drive. He blogged today:

All excellent questions. But let’s maybe simplify and throw a warning sticker on the bikes: NO RIDING ON EXPRESSWAYS

And yes, I am a consistent bike commuter who enjoys the benefits and routinely laments stupidity, four-wheeled, two-wheeled and on foot we all have to fight through daily. But come on. Lake Shore Drive?

This person didn’t want to be cycling there. There are several ways one could make the mistake of riding a bike on this roadway. And once you’re on, you’re on for good until the next exit (which in this Divvy rider’s case is 1/4 mile north from where the video was shot).

She might have known there was something called the Lake Shore Path (as some people call it) or the Lakefront Trail – she couldn’t remember which. She didn’t see any “Route X” signs, or “Interstate Y” signs.

She saw a road that looks like so many others. It’s called a drive, not an expressway (it doesn’t meet those technical standards). She most likely entered from Lower Wacker (which connects to Michigan Avenue, where many people ride Divvy against Alderman Reilly’s desire) and went up the center, northbound ramp to Lake Shore Drive.

Stony Island Avenue in Chicago. The only difference between this and Lake Shore Drive is the more frequent stopping (unless there’s congestion on LSD) and the shopping. Photo by Jeff Zoline.

It can be easily mistaken for a typical road, looking similar to the stroads near wherever she lives. Like Stony Island, Cicero, Columbus, Archer, in Chicago, or any countless “major street” in the suburbs. Maybe she comes from Roscoe Village, where Western Avenue goes over Belmont, or Bridgeport/Brighton Park, where Ashland Avenue goes over Pershing Avenue. Or some other city where regular roads cross other regular roads at different grades.


View Larger Map

Local photographer Brent Knepper tweeted that he made the mistake before.

We have a problem with our design such that the highway didn’t sufficient communicate, “No really, you shouldn’t bike here”. On the contrary, we have roads that should be shouting, “Hey, you really should be biking here!”

Maybe that’s why Netherlands makes it perfectly clear with red pavement.

Believe me, not even Casey Neistat would ride up here intentionally.

Updated with a better guess of where she entered Lake Shore Drive.

How to convert bike-share JSON data to CSV and then to shapefile

Update January 4, 2013: The easiest way to do this is to use Ian Dees’s Divvy API as it outputs straight to GeoJSON (which QGIS likes). See below.

For Michael Carney’s Divvy bike-share stations + Census tract + unbanked Chicagoans analysis and map he needed the Divvy station locations as a shapefile. I copied the JSON-formatted text of the Divvy real-time station API, converted it to CSV with OpenRefine, and then created a shapefile with QGIS.

Here’s how to create a shapefile of any bike-share system that uses hardware from Public Bike System Co based on Montréal and is operated by Alta Bicycle Share (this includes New York City, Chattanooga, Bay Area, Melbourne, and Chicago): Continue reading

Divvy considers my suggestions in bike-share kiosk map redesign

The new design that will appear at the newest stations first and then rolled out to all stations. 

I posted two months ago a critique of the Divvy bike-share maps, seen at 284 stations scattered around Chicago, focusing on the clutter of having so many maps (with the third being useless), unclear labels and labels that covered map objects, and the low prominence of the smartphone app and map legend. Two weeks ago the Divvy public relations manager emailed me a screenshot of the new map design and said that these points had been changed. He said they considered four of my suggestions:

  1. Make CycleFinder, the official Divvy smartphone app, more prominent
  2. Change “You are here” design to make it clear where you are
  3. Make streets and streets’ label text smaller
  4. Removed service area map and make legend more prominent

I replied to the manager and suggested that the “You are here” label be made slightly transparent to show that the road does continue beneath it.

Close-up of the original “you are here” design that covered up other objects and wasn’t centered in the walking distance circle.

The 5 Divvy stations REALLY close to residences

Scene of the crime: Pine Grove/Addison in Lakeview. Photo: Shaun Jacobsen.

The residents who sued the Chicago Department of Transportation and Alderman James Cappleman to have the Divvy bike sharing station removed from “6 steps” from their condos alleged that they were the only residence to be in such situation. At the hearing for the request for emergency injunction, which was denied, they said, “[we’ve] not seen any Divvy stations near residences”.

There are three other Divvy stations I’ve noticed that are equally close to residences but from which no lawsuits came. I suspect many others may exist but perhaps not as close as “6 steps”. The lawsuit provided no barrier, though, in the expansion and installation of Divvy stations across Chicago.

The very close stations include:

Emerald/28th in Bridgeport. Photo: Justin Haugens.

Halsted/Willow in Lincoln Park. Photo: Justin Haugens.

Damen/Pierce in Wicker Park

18th/Halsted. Photo by Timmmmmmmm.

New iOS app offers most advanced Divvy route directions

Chicago Bike Route for iOS

Walking directions from my house to the Divvy station at the CTA California Blue Line station, and then from there to the Divvy station at LaSalle/Illinois Streets. Lastly, there’s walking directions to some arbitrary N LaSalle Street address.

Adam Gluck and Andrew Beinstein showed up at OpenGov Hack Night on July 16, 2013, to show off the technical concept of their forthcoming app for iOS devices. I looped them into the Divvy app-making progress I and others were undertaking (documented on a shared Google Doc).

They said they would make their app was going quite different from all of the eight apps for using Divvy that have since launched before theirs: it would offer directions for walking to the nearest Divvy station with available bikes, directions to the Divvy station nearest their destination with open docks, and then walking directions from that end station to their destination.

Chicago Bike Route launched Friday last week. Currently only three of the eight iOS apps released before Chicago Bike Route have routing. CBR takes directions to a new level by giving you directions from where you are to where you want to go, and not necessarily from a specific Divvy station (like my Chicago Bike Guide does). Instead, CBR gives you complete directions between origin and destination and smartly picks the nearest Divvy station with available bikes. Now, I believe most often this will just be the nearest Divvy station, period, as it’s relatively rare for a station to lack bicycles.

The app uses Google Directions and for every trip makes a maximum of three calls to their API; counts against the app’s free quota from Google. The first call gets walking directions from the origin to the nearest Divvy station with available bikes, and the second call gets bicycling directions to the Divvy station with available docks nearest the destination, and the third call (assuming the destination isn’t that Divvy station) gets walking directions from the end Divvy station to your destination. The next step, I believe, is to have the app use a prediction model to accurately choose the end Divvy station. A lot can happen at that Divvy station in the 30 minutes (or whatever) it takes to get there. It may not have open docks when you arrive.

Two other suggestions I have: an improvement to the autocomplete destination function because it didn’t recognize “Chicago city hall” or its address, “121 N LaSalle Street”; and adding a “locate me” button. Additionally I’d like them to add some basic resources to advise users on where they can get more information about Divvy or bicycling in Chicago.

Adam and Andrew are going to publish a “dock surfing” function in the app that will incorporate multiple segments on Divvy to make a trip longer than the free 30 minute period. This would probably mean a fourth call to the Google Directions API. I emailed Adam and Andrew to learn more about the app development.

Video of Beinstein and Gluck presenting their app to Hack Night. Created by Christopher Whitaker for Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Why did you make Chicago Bike Route?

We made the app because we wanted to make something civic related. We thought that Divvy was an exciting new civic program coming into existence, and we kept seeing it all over the place. It also solves a real problem in public transportation that we notice and hear about a lot living in Hyde Park called the “last mile problem.” We also had the data in our hands from having attended civic hack night at 1871 when Divvy came and we thought “let’s make a native Divvy app!” And that’s what we did. We also released a framework for interacting with the Divvy API natively for developers who don’t want to get their hands dirty playing around with the iOS frameworks.

What makes your app stand out from the pack?

I think the routing but also the simplicity of design of the app.  We wanted it to be something you could just open up and use and was like all the other mapping utilities that one has on their phone (Google Maps, Apple Maps). And that’s what we did. You open it, enter an address, and you get routed to that address. Something that people could use to get up and running with Divvy with basically no familiarity with the system.

What features are you planning for the future?

Bike surfing! Seriously though. We think that it would be a really useful feature for some people, and also help reduce the cost of using the bikes. It would be useful for the regular riders where the $2 additional charge could really add up but also if you are someone who is not part of the program and are just taking the bike out for a joy ride. It can actually get kind of expensive, since every half hour after the first hour in a half is an additional $8, rather than $4.50 for members. You would also be less familiar with the bike stations under that situation. We also need to integrate with Chicago public transportation. But, we also want to keep with the simplicity, and create a user experience with basically no learning curve, and we are a little cautious to throw something in that could complicate things.

Divvy overtime fees and most frequent trip distances

Two people check out a Divvy bike in front of 3565 N Pine Grove Avenue, home to residents who sued the Chicago Department of Transportation and Alderman James Cappleman to have its installation prevented. That failed. Photo by John Greenfield. 

Kaitlyn Jakola interviewed me last week for the Chicago Magazine blog, The 312, about how newcomers should deal with Divvy bike sharing. I think I gave some good answers. Stick to the bike lanes by using an app (although that’s hard because so many of them don’t link up) and think about the rules you would follow if you were driving a car (which assumes you know how to do that). Two of the commenters called this a scam. The first stopped there but the second commenter showed some understanding of transportation and economics so I thought that I could reply and it would be taken seriously. They said:

It seems to me like the system is designed to create extra or ‘overage’ fees. Having to stop every 30 minutes and ‘redock’ your bike is prelude to a ripoff. By the time you get comfortable riding and determine where you’re going to go, it’s time to ‘redock’ then…

It doesn’t seem like the commenter knows how bike sharing works: think of a taxi that you drive yourself. The bike taxis are available at predetermined stands around the city. It’s there when you need it and you don’t need to own the vehicle.

Regarding overtime fees… The average trip taken on Divvy bikes is only 18 minutes long, which the Chicago Tribune – part of the same parent company as Chicago Magazine – reported on. That coincides with the average trip distances Americans and Cook County residents take. The Southern California Association of Governments, the federally-designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the nation’s largest regional planning area, found that 80% of trips residents in that region were less than 2 miles long (.pdf). This matches what the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the local MPO, found for Cook County that the average trip distance was 3.0 miles and the median trip distance was 2.3 miles (.pdf). Both studies’ figures aggregate trip mode, so this includes all trips people make by bus, personal automobile, walking, or bicycling. All of the distances are bikeable in 18 minutes.

Pervasive Divvy station maps offer big opportunity to show people around Chicago, but need major changes

A man looks at one of the first five stations installed, at State and Randolph (but the board says State and Lake). 

Navigation maps on Divvy bike sharing stations will be placed at 400 locations around the city. A map this pervasive, to be read and interpreted by hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors to Chicago (including people who will never use Divvy), should have a design that communicates good routes to ride, and important places like train stations, nearby Divvy stations, points of interest, and where to find places to eat or be entertained.

The design of the maps on the station boards needs to be improved. The first issue I noticed in June is that streets and alleys are given equal significance in their symbology, possibly confusing people on which route to take. The map should strip alleys, offering room for more info on the map, like useful destinations. It may be easier for some to locate the Art Institute of Chicago as a labeled, light-gray block instead of trying to locate its address on the map (nigh impossible). When one locates the destination, one can more easily locate the nearest Divvy station.

The map at North/Clybourn’s station (actually on Dayton Street) covers a large portion of the map with the “you are here” label and lacks the connection between North Avenue and Goose Island. 

I’ve noticed that the “you are here” labels cover up train station markers/labels, and the loop elevated tracks are missing (a common reference point for Chicago). It takes a moment to realize that the white text is labeling the CTA stations and not the nearby Divvy stations. It’s unclear where “you are here” points to, until you realize that it’s at the center of the blue 5-minute walking circle. Dearborn Street is symbolized as a bike lane, but not labeled as a street. Clark Street and State Street are doubly wide, but the meaning of that is unknown. The legend is useful to distinguish bike lane types but is placed far from the map, at the bottom of the board.

Here are other areas where the boards and maps should be redesigned:

  1. The “service area” map has low utility in its current form as it’s not labeled with streets, points of interest, or a time or distance scale. It appears as a reduced-boundary blob of Chicago. It could be improved if it communicated “this is where you can go if you take Divvy” and label streets, train stations, and points of interest at the edge of the service area. 
  2. The 5-minute bike ride map is nearly identical to the 5-minute walk map, but smaller. The 5-minute walk map should be made larger and integrate the now-eliminated 5-minute bike ride map.
  3. Much of the text is unnecessarily large. The CTA station labels are so large in comparison to the streets that it’s not clear where on the block the stations are located. CTA stations are labeled but the train routes aren’t always shown (Loop stops are just gray); it’s not even clear that they’re CTA stops.
  4. The purpose of the blue circle isn’t labeled or clear: the larger map, titled “5 minute walk”, shows a large map but there’s a blue circle – is the blue circle or the square map the 5-minute edge? The connection between the title and the blue circle could be tightened by using the same color for the text and the circle or by wrapping the text around the circle path.
  5. The map, which is likely to serve as a neighborhood “get around” and discovery map for tourists, and even locals, lacks basic info: there are absolutely no destinations marked, no museums, parks, etc.
  6. The bike lane symbology doesn’t match the Chicago Bike Map, which uses blue, purple, orange, and red to denote different bike lane types, and hasn’t used green for at least seven years. The use of green makes them look like narrow parks.
  7. The map designers should consider placing the city’s cardinal grid numbering system to enable readers to find an address.
  8. North/Clybourn’s Divvy station map lacks a bikeable connection from North Avenue to Goose Island via the Cherry Avenue multi-modal bridge. The maps should be reviewed for street network accuracy by people who live and ride nearby.

Photo shows the original board and map at the Milwaukee/Wood/Wolcott station, which has since moved. The station on this map marked at Marshfield/North was moved to Wood/North this week. 

There are many opportunities for the map to change because they will have to be updated when stations are moved, for both the moved station and the handful of station boards that include the moved station. At least four boards needed to be updated when the station at Milwaukee/Wood/Wolcott moved from Milwaukee Avenue (next to Walgreens) to Wood Street (across from the Beachwood). The maps for Citibike in New York City don’t share these design flaws.

The Citibike station boards and maps were designed by Pentagram, a well-known design firm, with whom the city has a longstanding relationship, designing the new wayfinding signs for neighborhoods, the “LOOK” anti-dooring decal for taxi windows, and the bus station maps. One of the key differences between the Citibike and Divvy maps is the text label size, the symbol label size, and the presence of building outlines (that other huge group of things that defines a city, contrasting the roads-only view on the Divvy map).

A close-up view of a Citibike map. Photo by Oran Viriyincy. 

N.B. More trips are currently taken by tourists and people with 24-hour memberships than people with annual memberships. I question the bikeway symbology and suggest that the streets have three symbols: one representing a bike lane (of any kind), one representing sharrows (because they are legally different from bike lanes) and one representing a street with no marked bikeways. The current bikeway symbology may not be understandable by many visitors (or even understood by locals because of differing definitions) and show a jumble of green hues whose meanings are not clear or even useful. It’s not currently possible to take a route on a bicycle that uses only protected bike lanes, or uses protected bike lanes and buffered bike lanes, so the utility of this map as a route building tool is weak. One wastes their time looking at this map in the attempt to construct a route which uses the darkest green-hued streets.

I also recommend that the board and map designers give Divvy CycleFinder app messaging greater prominence. I believe that a majority of users will be searching app stores for appropriate apps. When you search for Divvy, you’ll find eight apps, including my own Chicago Bike Guide.

Updated 22:43 to clarify my critique and make more specific suggestions for changes. 

#protip: Businesses must tell their customers that a Divvy station is out front

I bet you want a Divvy station in front of your business. 

Gabe Klein, commissioner of transportation in Chicago, said on WBEZ on Monday that (paraphrased) “business owners are calling us to say ‘we’d like to buy a Divvy station to put in front of our restaurant’“.

Excellent.

Regarding my headline, I’m talking about telling customers on websites that, in addition to “where to park” and “which highway to take to access our location”, the website needs to give more diverse transportation directions. It should say how to get here by bike, and where the nearest Divvy station is.

When I worked at CDOT – I left before Klein arrived – I had the responsibility of increasing the number of visitors to the Chicago Bicycle Program’s website. I developed a set of strategies including making the content more searchable, adding more content, diversifying content types (like uploading photos staff took to Flickr), but also by increasing the number of inbound links. To satisfy that strategy I listed organizations where biking should be encouraged, like train stations and museums. I contacted many museums individually and asked them to include “bike here!” text on the webpage that otherwise told people to drive on I-290 and exit some place. I gave them sample text and even mentioned where the nearest city-installed bike racks were.

Several museum websites were updated as a result of this effort, but now I cannot find the evidence on Shedd, Field, or Adler websites.

Heck, forget the web. When your customers call, forget the assumption that most people drive and just start giving them directions as if they’re going to arrive in this order of transportation modes:

  1. Walking
  2. Biking
  3. Transit
  4. Scooting
  5. Running
  6. Taxi
  7. Ride sharing
  8. Pedicab
  9. Driving

Every mode requires different directions because people move about the city differently. Here’s an example: I’m giving directions to someone who’s going to drive from my house in Avondale to our friend’s house in the same neighborhood about five blocks away. I tell them, well turn here and there, and then drive through the alley to cross over this one-way street in the “wrong” direction… and “wait, those are directions on how to bike there. With all the one-way streets in my neighborhood, I honestly don’t know a good way to drive there, so ask Siri.”

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