More anti-bike share rubbish from the Tribune

June 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Chicago Tribune reporterJon Hilkevitch covers a lot of transportation news in Chicago, and usually does a decent job, but his last article about Divvy bike share is just as sloppy as one he wrote last month.

Hilkevitch, whose article I will not link to, seemed to find every person who was frustrated with Divvy (and there weren’t a lot) and did not find anyone who was happy with the system. Unsurprisingly, Streetsblog Chicago found a few – read about them here.

Here’s one excerpt from the article:

Dan Stegmaier, 27, of Lisle, hurriedly hailed a taxicab on Illinois Street near Navy Pier after he pedaled more than a mile out of his way, trying three different Divvy stations, on the heavy and somewhat clunky three-speed bike to find an available bike dock where he could drop off the bike.

“By now I thought I would already be where I need to be. Anyone want to share a cab?’’ Stegmaier asked two other Divvy customers who were detoured from their intended journey.

Again, the Tribune misses the point that the bikes are supposed to be built to last, not slender 21-speed bikes meant for racing down the street. There are also only two docking stations near Navy Pier. And on a day like yesterday (with a parade and large event downtown), I doubt a cab would have been much faster in the first place!

Under its contract with the city, Divvy operator Alta Bicycle Share Inc. is supposed to balance supply and demand by loading bikes in vans at overflow locations and shuttling them to other stations.

It was the first day of operations and there was a large parade drawing hundreds of millions of people into the crowded downtown area; it’s not as if the bikes are going to magically fly themselves to other stations or a van will be at every station ready to be rebalance bikes.

It might not have helped Divvy’s chances of success to stick with plans made almost three weeks ago, which put its inaugural day of service on the same day as the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory parade through the jam-packed Loop.

Remind me which date was set first: the bike share launch, or the parade?

Listen, every time there are events like this downtown, I encounter tons of suburbanites who have seemingly never seen a train before and have no idea how to use those super-complicated turnstiles to get in the station. The farecard vending machines work all the time, without fail, and every train comes on time. If there were ever a technical problem with the CTA, the Tribune would be on it!

Sloppy articles like this could be a way for the Tribune to garner some attention, just like the New York City media did last month for CitiBike. It is pitiful that a reporter sunk to ignoring any positive anecdotes or waiting some time for a more thorough analysis. If CTA riders were asked about the service every day by a reporter, this article is like only pointing out the times the CTA is delayed and ignoring every time the system actually works. Divvy is not perfect yet, as I wrote a little about yesterday, but I (and many others) acknowledge that yesterday was the first day of service. The Tribune article was written less than 24 hours after launch. That is not a lot of time for a complete or fair analysis.

Hopefully this is the extent of post-launch criticism and will be remembered as foolish while the system grows and the kinks are worked out.