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Bike Sharing Program to Benefit Commuters

Getting to work is going to get easier for Metra commuters who arrive at Union Station or Ogilvie Transportation Center when Chicago officially debuts its bike-sharing program June 28.

For commuters like Ken Ropiak, who works Downtown, a 15-minute walk can be shortened to 10 or even five minutes, something he’s happy about.

“If it means that I don’t have to run around to get to work without being late, then I’m cool with it,” said Ropiak, 24, who plans on trying the bike-sharing program. “It’s got to be a good thing for the environment, too, so I guess every little bit helps.”

But like some Chicagoans, he’s wary of the $75 annual membership fee and the limited amount of time riders have to use the bikes before being charged extra.

“I don’t want to spend my money if when I get out of Union (Station) there’s no bikes left,” he said, adding that he could just bring his own bike.

An annual membership gives a rider an unlimited number of rides of up to 30 minutes before additional fees kick in. Or bicyclists can buy a daily pass for $7.

Self-proclaimed bike enthusiast Ahmed Sakr, 23, of Schaumburg, said he doesn’t think the bike-sharing program will take off with commuters because of membership cost.

“As a commuter, I’m paying more than $150 for my monthly (Metra) pass. I don’t want to pay another $75 (a year) for a 10-minute bike ride,” said Sakr.

Another issue is the bikes – or lack of bikes – that could be available during rush hour, Sakr said.

There will be four to six stations at Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center, said Sean Wiedel, assistant commissioner for citywide services for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

When the station runs out of bikes, Alta Bicycle Share Inc. – who’s been hired to run the city program – will be able to return bikes from full stations to empty ones because they’re wirelessly connected, said Wiedel.

Divvy Bike Sharing Station
Click for bigger, interactive map

Ethan Spotts, marketing and communications director for Active Transportation Alliance, said the bikes will be easy to check out and easy to ride – and riding them will be cheaper than taking a cab or waiting for the bus or train.

Chicago’s bike-sharing program was supposed to debut last year but has been delayed, most recently because of software glitches.

Chicago joins other U.S. cities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., in offering a bike-sharing program, which officials hope will reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The bikes feature lights, fenders, a rack on the back and chain guards, said Spotts, but riders will have to provide their own helmets.

Wiedel said there will be 75 stations and 750 bikes on June 28th, but by the end of the summer the plan is to have 300 stations and 3,000 bikes.

And by the end of summer 2014, the goal is to have 400 stations and 4,000 bikes. The stations will be located primarily in the Downtown area at train stations and bus stops and in some neighborhoods.

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