South Side residents blue about lack of divvy bikes

By Assistant Metro Editor

Although the Divvy bike sharing system has 300 stations with more than 3,000 bikes throughout Chicago, bikes access remain scarce on the city’s South Side. 

Many South Side residents in neighborhoods such as Englewood, Chatham and Roseland are wondering when Divvy will enter their neighborhoods, but others question if Divvy will make the South Side communities better.

“We’ve gone from the fifth leading city for bicycling to the second leading city for bicycling based on the implementation of the Divvy bike system,” said Harold Lucas, CEO of the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council.

Lucas, a cyclist for more than 40 years, said the issue is not necessarily about Divvy providing bikes in predominantly black communities, but about fostering opportunity for economic growth in those areas. Lucas said he is concerned about how Divvy empowers and revitalizes low-income areas.

 “It’s tied to the re-gentrification of these inner-city neighborhoods,” Lucas said. “We have to enfranchise ourselves in being part of the redevelopment as opposed to redevelopment overrunning our communities with products and services that don’t empower the community.”

Johnny Stallworth, owner of John’s Hardware and Bicycle Shop, 7350 S. Halsted St., said Divvy bikes are needed in Englewood, specifically in the area surrounding his shop. He said more people could save money if they had access to Divvy bikes.

“I believe that it would do well,” Stallworth said. “A lot of my clientele has inquired why it hasn’t been closer to this location. I get customers that ask if I rent bikes, which I do not, so I think Divvy bikes will do well in the black community.”

Stallworth said he thinks Divvy would be a success in prime locations like the intersections of 79th and Halsted streets, 79th Street and Ashland Avenue and 63rd and Halsted streets near Kennedy-King College. He said area college students could also benefit from the addition of the Divvy bike system.

“A lot of people on the South Side take public transportation and don’t have cars,” said Loren Buford, a mental health practitioner on the South Side. 

Buford said she would love to see a Divvy station near her office at the intersection of 95th and Halsted street. However, she said she thinks the Divvy bike system has some imperfections that would make it difficult for herself and nearby residents to take advantage of the bikes.

“My one issue with [Divvy] is you have to stop every 30 minutes and re-register the bike,” Buford said. “I think that can be a big problem for people who really need transportation for longer distances.” 

She said Divvy works well for those who live or work in or near downtown, but residents who live in Englewood or Roseland and need to go to the clinics would have difficulties re-registering the bikes every 30 minutes because there is a limited number of stations in the area.

“I think if you’re going to pay the price to have the bike for a day, you should be able to have it for eight or 10 hours for it to really be helpful for someone who needs a way to work or to the doctor,” Buford said.

Hannah Helbert, Divvy Marketing Coordinator, said Divvy plans to add 175 new stations as far south as 79th Street and as far north as Touhy Avenue. She said its farthest station south is at 58th and Ellis streets.  However, this still overlooks the people in Roseland and those who live farther south. Helbert also said that trips longer than 30 minutes incur trip fees with an extra charge of $1.50, but she said the time customers have for the bikes might be extended.

“We don’t have any specific plans right now, but I can’t say that it will never happen,” Helbert said.

Stallworth said bikes are becoming more popular among adults in Englewood because they depend on bikes when public transportation is delayed or shut down or if they have a suspended driver’s license and cannot afford public transportation to work. He added that there is an increase in adults riding bikes but not in children.

“We have a generation of children coming up that are dwelling in the home,” Stallworth said. “When we were children, unlike some kids today, it wasn’t video games—it was outside getting fresh air, riding bicycles. I think if parents would instill an outdoor activity, then the bike business will pick up.”

Stallworth said he thinks the South Side is lacking in the respect 

that the children are not being taught the importance of outdoor exercise and the environment. He said if the community can become healthier, more Divvy bikes may come into the neighborhoods.

Lucas said  businesses always come down to economic empowerment in the black communities. He said that happens when blacks are self-sufficient and self-empowering. However, businesses like Divvy must provide economic opportunities for blacks to benefit from the services.

“I’m for economic empowerment in our neighborhoods. If it’s coming from Divvy, fine,” Lucas said. “If it’s not, then we are being exploited by the opportunity of well-placed groups being able to bring an infrastructure and we’re not benefiting.”