Oak Park not giving up on bike-sharing

Board of Trustees directs staff to explore options

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees voted in January to pull the plug on the costly Divvy bike-sharing program, but trustees are hopeful to find a less expensive alternative.

The Divvy program cost Oak Park taxpayers about $26,665 a month, but other bike-sharing companies, particularly those that do not require the expensive docking stations like the ones used by Divvy, can do the job at a fraction of the price, trustees say.

The board directed staff in early March to put the project out to a public bid to solicit vendors. Staff will then return to the board in the third quarter of 2018 with proposals to consider. 

The request to review alternative bike-sharing programs was made by trustees Andrea Button and Deno Andrews.

Button, who was in the minority in the vote to axe Divvy, said in a telephone interview that she still believes the village should have given Divvy more time to get off the ground.

"I think bike-sharing is an important thing in Oak Park," she said, adding that there are a lot of options now in the marketplace that cost significantly less than Divvy.

A lot of bike-sharing companies offer their service without docking stations, which reduces the cost, she said.

Button said she did have concerns that dockless bike-sharing could be "messy and disorganized."

"We can start wherever we need to start and figure out what works and what doesn't," she said. 

Andrews, who was an outspoken critic of the Divvy program, said the market has matured since Divvy was first established, and it makes sense to see what's available.

"I wasn't critical because I'm against bicycling or bike-sharing, I just thought it was a really bad deal," he said.

He described other bike-sharing programs that allow riders to lock the bikes to smaller bike racks, unlike Divvy, whose docks took up lots of space on public streets. He said every park, municipal building, tourist site and train station could have a smaller area to lock the rental bikes.

"If that's the case, then you have the advantage of having a dock but just not one where you have to lock the bike into … a docking station," he said, adding that the at $300 each and 120 bikes, the Divvy model was too expensive.

He said residents were reluctant to take Divvy bikes to area train stations because of a concern that the docking stations would be full and there would be no space to dock the bikes.

"I think the key, in my opinion, what is required to make a bike-sharing system successful is ubiquity throughout the village," Andrews said. "If you have to walk more than two blocks to get one of these things, it's not worth doing."

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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