Divvy claims to get you around Chicago ‘in a jiffy.’ Apparently, people still say that. Each pass, purchased at the black and blue bike racks around Chicago, Evanston and Northwestern gets you unlimited 30-minute trips for 24 hours. We intended to take full advantage.
Well, my editors intended for me to take full advantage. Explore Chicago, they said, knowing I love the outdoors. Someone decided I could serve as a suitable guinea pig for the editors’ “adventurous” project to attempt the Divvy bike system. Little did they know, I had never actually street biked.
So, with my arduous task, I launched my Chicago street biking debut on a gray Sunday afternoon in Bucktown, a quick Metra ride away from Evanston – a 1.5 mile walk or bike ride from the Armitage CTA station (there’s a Divvy station right next to it) and never less than a block away from something trendy.
Fumbling around at the station while trying to look like I live here and am cool, I ended up paying $9.95 with a debit card and received a code for my first 30 minutes of biking, which I punched in on the bike’s rack to pull out my first bike. Avoid my foolish trial and error – pulling the bike out of the rack actually requires lifting the bike up a bit. Adjusting the seat and fitting my helmet – easy enough – I inhaled deeply and began my journey.
Living in Evanston without a car, I’ve felt disconnected from some parts of Chicago. But on the bike, I realized I was as mobile as a car. Chicago’s sights may seem sparse when riding the Purple to Red to Blue CTA lines, but they aren’t too far from each other. The Lincoln Park Zoo, for example, is just under two miles from the John Hancock Center.
On my way to the Bloomingdale Trail running and biking path, I passed endless shops, strings of outdoor lights and fusion taco restaurants. The path, also known as the 606, is lined with greenery, water fountains and even bike repair stops. It’s a revived elevated railroad in Chicago’s northwest side. I’ve run (OK, jogged) the trail a few times before, which takes up a day’s energy for me, but on the bike I easily whizzed past couples and kids trailing their parents on tricycles.
On the way, I passed a small Sunday festival in Wicker Park (the actual park) full of pumpkins and other vendors with seasonal snacks.
I soon snapped out of my leisurely ride, remembering I needed to find the next station to avoid an extra charge. Those 30 minutes proved annoyingly short, given that I didn’t really know my biking speed or where I was going specifically.
At station two in Wicker Park, I returned my bike and pressed in my old code at a few racks, looking like an embarrassing first-timer (thanks, editors). When you return your bike, activate the station’s touch screen again, and insert the same payment card you used to purchase the Divvy pass. The system will conjure up a new code for another 30 minutes.
Heading to Ukrainian Village, I eventually made it to architectural landmark Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, its steeple almost hidden by branches. Despite the rain, I felt more comfortable and headed to the bike station in the 30-minute crunch.
I headed south on Damon until Fulton Street. I decided taking a tour of the Goose Island Brewery by myself might be a little weird, but made note of the ease of speeding around the industrial district, where the east-west streets are virtually empty from Ashland to Damon.
I pulled to the side of the road again to check my phone and find the next station. With the rain steadily increasing, I returned my bike by the “L” station to head back to Evanston.
The $10 is steep for a ride from the Metra to my old internship office in the Loop or a ride from my apartment to Norris, but I four-star Divvy for exploring a new area in the city, running errands in mild weather or heading from home to dinner to a bar for a much better price than an Uber. With some mild exercise.