I have been out of town since Seattle’s bike share system launched, so to deal with my intense Pronto jealousy I had to check out some Divvy bikes while in Chicago.
I grew up in St. Louis and went to college in Illinois, so I have been to Chicago a fair number of times. But I have never had this much fun getting around town, and I have definitely never had this clear of a picture of the city’s geography. For the first time, I actually think I know where I am most the time, and it’s all thanks to bike share.
Biking around also had a very unexpected side-effect: The city feels a lot less mean. At first I was a bit intimidated by the idea of biking in this sprawling car-filled metropolis, but once I got on the bike the city softened. Quality bike lanes like the ones on Dearborn through the heart of the Loop and the fantastic Lakefront trail definitely helped, but somehow I feel even more comfortable biking around Chicago than I do trying to navigate on foot and transit (and way more comfortable than driving a car here, which is terrifying).
Unlike in Seattle, Chicago does not have helmets available at bike share stations. Like most of you, I am so accustomed to wearing a helmet when I bike that I feel a little naked if I don’t have one. In fact, I drive so rarely that I have even started to feel a bit naked when I get in a car without a helmet.
But for the most part, it did not feel dangerous to ride a Divvy without a helmet, especially in the city center and on streets with good or decent bike lanes. The bikes are so upright, heavy and slow that I just didn’t feel threatened. And people who drive (except for one jerk) sure give Divvy riders a lot of space, something I was not expecting in a city where people drive so aggressively it can feel like you’re playing chicken every time you try to merge onto the freeway. Continue reading