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An Increasing Number of Young Chicagoans Are Using Divvy Bikes

By Matthew Zaiff

Since their inception in 2013, Divvy bikes have become a staple of transportation in Chicago.  The number of riders aged 10 though 20 have doubled between the summer of 2016 and 2017. Young Chicagoans are adapting to the bike sharing service similarly to ride sharing applications like Uber and Lyft.

The Shared Use Mobility Center is a public organization that works to foster shared mobility transportation such as bike sharing, and ridesharing. According to their website, “Bike sharing has the potential to play an important role in bridging some of the gaps in existing transportation networks, as well encouraging individuals to use multiple transportation modes. Potential bike sharing benefits include: increased mobility; lower transportation costs; reduced fuel use; economic development; health benefits; and greater environmental awareness.”

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Divvy Bikes stationed at the Wabash Avenue and Adams Street location. Photo by Matthew Zaiff

With over 580 stations and 6,000 bikes in circulation, Divvy bikes are an affordable alternative transportation in a city that is plagued with traffic issues. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, at least 10 percent of riders are between 16 and 24 years old. CMAP also indicates that seasonal ridership is a factor for riders, with the summer months always generating the highest numbers of overall ridership.

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A young woman rides her Divvy bike down Michigan Avenue. Photo by Matthew Zaiff

The Chicago Data Portal is a resource that allows anyone to access public information throughout the city. Divvy is completely transparent with their data, displaying a multitude of information to be accessed. The bike sharing company posted over 13 million points of data that all translate to individual bike rentals.  Everything from the rider’s age and gender to the Divvy station name and overall bike rental duration are available.

In order to examine riders that are in the younger categories, the mass of data was filtered, first by age. A filter of identify all riders between the ages of 16 and 20 was applied, after that the time that the trip took place was filtered. The parameters were rides that occurred between May and September, as the warm months feature the highest traffic of riders. And finally, the rides examined must be at least 2 hours in overall duration, or the time from the bike was removed from one location and later returned to any Divvy station. With the aforementioned filters in place, data was pulled from 2016 and 2017.

According to the Chicago Data Portal, in 2016 there were 10 riders that met the parameters of the search. That figure doubled for 2017 where the result was 21 riders. This finding indicates that overall ridership among 16 though 20-year-olds is increasing.

The Google map below highlights rider data from 2016 and 2017. Red points represent rides in 2016 and Blue points represent rides in 2017.


“The data does support that bike ridership is increasing year to year, and more younger riders are using ride sharing,” says Ride Illinois team member, Elizabeth Adamczyk. Ride Illinois is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving bicycling conditions throughout Illinois, and act as advocates on behalf of cyclists statewide. “In general, I personally believe Divvy and bike riding as a mode to be an accessible transit option to riders ages 16 and older with parental/guardian consent,” said Adamczyk. “It’s also a low cost and efficient way to get places in the city.”

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Young woman returns her Divvy bike to the Michigan Avenue and Jackson Blvd stop. Photo by Matthew Zaiff

With popular ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, young riders are making an active decision to ride Divvy rather than take a car service. According to Jacquelyn Adamson, Divvy will always be a more attractive means of transportation. “I choose to use the bike sharing service Divvy because my work does not have access to the train and I do not really understand how to take the bus,” said the 20-year-old DePaul student. “I enjoy riding my bike throughout the streets of Chicago because I am able to adventure streets I do not know additionally Divvy is way cheaper and allows me to get to my destination while exercising,” said Adamson.

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A young couple returns their Divvy bikes to the popular Millennium Park Station. Photo by Matthew Zaiff

In addition to serving as transportation for commuters, other young Chicagoans enjoy Divvy bikes for recreational activities. “Divvy bikes make getting around the city fast, easy and fun,” said Michelle Cunningham, a 21-year-old DePaul student. “I love that I can grab a Divvy in Old Town and drop it off by my friend’s place in the South Loop.”

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A young man rides as he is followed by companions. Photo by Matthew Zaiff

Divvy has proven that there is strong demand for bike sharing in Chicago. Their ease of use and extensive network of stations has solidified company as a mainstay Chicago transportation. Young riders are drawn to the benefits of the bike sharing company and their overall numbers will continue to grow for years to come.

Matthew Zaiff View All

Car fanatic turned journalist.

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