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Green Ride: Bike Share Program to Create Jobs in Bronzeville

bike sharing in chicago. select, ride, return.
Bike sharing in Chicago. Select, ride, return. (Photo credit: Clark Maxwell)

Some expect Chicago’s new bike share program will offer more than 4,000 rental bikes, but 150 jobs, which they say the South Side desperately needs.

Blackstone Bicycle Works in Hyde Park will offer internships before the program officially launches in the spring for Chicago youth. It will teach them how to take care of the bikes, along with assembling the bike stations.

City officials are looking to develop similar programs within the community. Eventually a total of 150 permanent jobs are expected to come from the bike share program.

The city estimates using around $18 million in a federal air quality grant to purchase the 4,000 bicycles and work on building the 400 solar-powered docking stations. Chicago will own the equipment, but the program will be ran by Alta, an Oregon- based company.

The first 30 minutes of bike rental are free. Users will have to pay $7 for a daily pass and $75 for a yearlong membership.  This might be more cost efficient for some residents since the CTA has hiked up the used to be $86 monthly pass to $100. Users who would like to purchase the yearlong membership must present a credit card. According to CDOT, any unreturned bicycle will cost the rider $1,200.

CDOT deputy commissioner Scott Kubly helped establish a similar program in Wash.,D.C. He strategically created ways that would not exclude low-income residents from participating in the program.

He has told community members and churches that he wants to help ensure they are able to use the bikes even if they do not have a credit card.

Last June Bikes Belong, an organization that creates strategies to get more people on bikes, paid for Ald. Pat  Dowell (3rd), Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) to visit Denmark. They were able to see how bike lanes are used and how residents utilize the bikes in their daily routine.

After the trip Dowell came back home much more enthused about the protected bike lanes along Martin Luther King Drive and the bike share program. She said she is a bike rider and supporter of bike lanes in her ward.

“They offer another transportation option to my constituents that’s cheaper, environmentally sustainable and accessible,” she said.

During Chicago’s Great Migration, between 1910 and 1920, many African Americans made the South Side their home. Bronzeville was a community they formed and historically, it is famous for its musicians, playwrights, poets and more. With loss of jobs and other economic influences, the community lost most of its shine. Harold Lucas, head of the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, has been fighting to preserve the history and architecture of what some still call the Black Metropolis.

Lucas said this program will be good for tourism in Bronzeville’s historic district, but more importantly, this can be the first of many other ideas to help with economic development. His goal is to help black businesses form in the community because his organization promotes tourism development in Bronzeville.

“I think we have a responsibility and an obligation to create businesses that can hire two, three, four people at the local level and that [by] creating multiple sites and attractions within Bronzeville…[we] will make the south lakefront region of Chicago a bulging international tourist destination and that’s the market we need to be generating,” he said.

A former Chicago University student, Joe Sullivan, said up until a few months ago he would ride his bike through Bronzeville and Hyde Park to get downtown. He is an avid rider, but is a little skeptical of how the bike share program will turn out.

“In Bronzeville, I don’t know, I don’t see a lot of people using bikes out there. I feel like it’s convenient for people going around the Loop. Those bikes aren’t really fast,” he said.

“It’s good if you want to ride a couple of blocks to the bus stop or grocery store. If you’re going to the loop I feel like you’re better off using your own bike. If you’re a tourist traveling it might be good.”

As of now, the bike sharing in Chicago is a private business operated by B-Cycle and is limited to a maximum of 100 bikes at six popular tourist locations like Navy Pier and Buckingham Fountain.

The docking stations will be solar-powered and will be located near CTA, commuter rail stations and other high populated areas. Each bike will have multiple speeds, front and back lights and cushioned seats. New bike lanes will also be added along 31st street.

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