Nice weather? Good luck getting a Divvy downtown

Nice weather in Chicago brings a smile to the face of many a local bike commuter.

But does it bring a smile to every bike commuter? What if you’re relying on a Divvy to get home? You might be annoyed that you can’t get a bike. Especially if you work in the Loop.

(By the way, it’s Divvy Week. You can get a free burrito or something.)

Divvy has had a tough time meeting demand downtown during good weather. We know because we’ve been documenting the evening rush hour over the past few days with the Divvy System Map.

Divvy has to walk a delicate balance: if its stations are totally full, then people can’t drop off their bikes. If stations are totally empty, then people can’t get a bike in the first place.

So how have they done? How easy it was to get a Divvy bike downtown in the past few days?

Today: Monday, April 24th

Map note: The proportion of dark blue signifies how many bikes are available. If the tab is fully dark blue, it’s fully stocked with bikes. If it’s fully light blue, it’s empty. 

4:00 PM

4_24_17_4pm_loop.png

Blue circles = completely full stations.

Just before rush hour. At this point, you’d think the Loop stations would be stocked with bikes. Some of them are: Millennium Park, State and Van Buren, Wacker and Washington. But many are nearly empty.

Guess what happens during rush hour?

6:30 PM

4_24_17_630pm.png

Red circles = completely empty stations

14 empty stations. Look at Randolph and LaSalle. Only a few bikes at 4:00, none by 6:30. And Franklin & Adams, half full at 4:00 but empty at 6:30.

Surprisingly, many of the empty stations were almost fully stocked at 4pm– Lake & Franklin, Washington & Wacker, Madison & Dearborn, Clark & Lake. Divvy might need to add more bike docks at some of these stations.

Divvy’s rebalancing looks like it could use work, too.

7:30 PM

4_24_17_730pm.png

An hour later and it’s only gotten worse. 15 empty stations and no evidence of rebalancing. Imagine the poor soul in a cubicle at Franklin & Randolph, xeroxing contracts for 13 hours before finally leaving the office at 7:30pm. Then s/he’s gotta wander across half the Loop to find a bike! The horror.

Was today an exception? No. Divvy maps from last week tell the same story.

Friday, April 21st

This was a 3 star™ weather day. Sunny, but in the 40s.

6:00 PM

loop_4_21_17_6pm.png

The weather wasn’t outstanding and this picture is from 6 PM, still in the middle of rush hour. But there’s already a bike shortage at six stations on the north and west sides of the Loop.

Thursday, April 20th

Another pretty nice day, weather wise.

10:30 PM

Loop_4_20_17_1030pm.png

Map is from a bit late at night (sorry), but same general pattern. No bikes available at 11 stations.

Wednesday, April 19th

For comparison’s sake: this was an overcast, rainy-ish day. The post-rush hour map doesn’t look so bad, but it’s still not perfect.

8:30 PM

4_19_17_830pm_loop.png

What does this all mean?

Empty stations suggest that people who want to get a bike can’t. To get a Divvy, you might have to walk three stations away. Or you might get annoyed and give up altogether.

At the very least, Divvy should consider expanding capacity at some of these stations. Especially at Lake & Franklin and Washington & Wacker, which hold 23 and 18 bikes respectively.

Granted, this isn’t the most pressing bike issue in a city that gives out tickets for riding while black. But if Divvy is to become an indispensable mode of transit in Chicago, it needs to work out the kinks.

Follow CBR on Twitter: @BikeReportChi

Edit: Per Benjamin Gembler below (thanks Benjamin), Divvy recently began a valet service to provide extra bikes at certain Loop stations until 6:30 PM. Sure, it doesn’t address the post-6:30 shortages, but it’s a start. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as word spreads and the process is refined.

We’ll keep an eye out. Happy Divvy Week, everyone.

7 thoughts on “Nice weather? Good luck getting a Divvy downtown

  1. Might want to factor in the all-day valets that have recently started in the Loop. Puts hundreds of additional valeted (read: bikes corralled to side) bikes within walking distance of a good percentage of the Loop during evening rush, as well as centrally-located spots with a guaranteed parking spot in the mornings. (Daley Center, Orleans/Merchandise Mart, Lasalle/Adams, Michigan/Washington, Franklin/Monroe). Believe it runs weekdays from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm.

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  2. Actually they DO provide the additional bikes which come into those stations from the morning rush hour traffic (given that the riding weather was halfway decent during the morning rush). The bikes that are ridden to those valets in the morning generally stay through the day numbers-wise, and their numbers sometimes increase as the day wears along. On a normal decent weather day this time a year, this typically means that valets have collected/corralled hundreds of additional bikes at the 5 all day valets by the time evening rush is starting. These are bikes that are in addition to the bikes in the docks.

    In addition, rebalancing vans bring more bikes to those valets if needed (up until that end time basically). Also, the all day valets are actually not at Ogilvy or Union stations (though the evening valets are). These are spread out through the loop–northeast, northwest, middle, west. They are within walking distance of a lot of other Divvy stations. Your point about the 6:30 end being too soon is well taken, however the peak of demand tends to be the 5-6pm hour. The worst of the shortages then occur once demand has already begun to wane. Let’s see how this new dynamic works for everyone. They may make adjustments, based on the results. It takes time to get the word out that there are hundreds of new bikes at particular locations, too.

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    1. Hm, my comment apparently disappeared. Thanks for the clarification–very interesting. Post updated to reflect new info. Are there plans to update the service map to show where extra bikes are available?

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