Riding on Divvy in the snow.
Divvy, for the first time in its short, seven-month existence, shut down today at 12 PM on account of the weather and keeping members and workers – who move bikes, shovel snow, and drive vans around town – safe.
Every news media in town reported on the shutdown. Chicagoist, ABC 7, NBC 5, FOX 32, Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times – you name it they had it.
But nothing has been published, except parts of this story from DNAinfo Chicago, that discusses how bicycling – whether on Divvy or your own bike – is very difficult in Chicago winters because of the poor coordination between the Streets & Sanitation and Transportation departments’ snow removal efforts, and the slow pace at which CDOT gets around to removing snow from the protected bike lanes. (I was quoted, alongside someone I recommended the author get in touch with, and we have differing views on the matter.)
In winter the protected bike lanes are the only bikeable kind of bike lane as conventional bike lanes become snow storage areas because plows can’t reach further right when there are parked cars (to avoid knocking off car mirrors).
This problem is not unique to Chicago and other cities have solved it. The cold isn’t why people in Chicago stop biking: it’s that snow and ice make it even more difficult in a region with little, separated (meaning safe and desirable) cycling infrastructure. There are climes with similar and worse winters where a large portion of people who bike in the summer keep biking in the winter. Places like Boulder, Minneapolis, Montréal, and Copenhagen.
A well-plowed, separated bike lane in a Copenhagen winter. Stranded? Put your bike on the back of a taxi (their buses don’t allow bikes).
I think it’s good that news media have recognized Divvy’s position as a transit system in the area, which they do by holding it to the same, weird standard they do Chicago Transit Authority and Metra, and posting about it frequently. When the CTA or Divvy has some marginal or perceived issue with its finances or service, an article gets written. But when it comes to bicycle infrastructure they give the city a pass where it doesn’t deserve one.
The media cares about Divvy, but it doesn’t care about bicycling. It might be the 11,000 Divvy members (more than Active Transportation Alliance or The Chainlink), however, that gets the city to kick up its bike lane snow removal efforts up a notch and I anxiously await that day.