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Affordable Divvy For Everyone Enters Second Year

Photos by Gordon Walek

Bike to work. Bike to shop. Bike to enjoy. In Chicago, Divvy has become a quick and convenient travel option with limitless purposes, but the $99 annual fee can be cost-prohibitive.

A year ago, LISC Chicago was approached by the Chicago Department of Transportation, which received a $75,000 grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to subsidize memberships. The gesture was promptly matched by Divvy’s advertising sponsor – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL is also a major supporter to LISC Chicago). It had a proposition: a program for better access to Divvy bikes called Divvy for Everyone (D4E). Still needed, however, was a mechanism to screen and enroll applicants across the city, which included expanding bike access of the South and West sides.

That’s when LISC Chicago and five of our Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) partners became involved. Instead of paying $99 annually to subscribe to the city’s popular rent-a-bike system, biking has become an affordable and new public transit option for low- to moderate-income residents citywide. Folks who qualify for the D4E program can join for just $5 by signing up at one of LISC’s five neighborhood Financial Opportunity Centers. The cost of Divvy was a major barrier, as was the need for a credit or debit card for those who lack credit and/or are unbanked. D4E allows for more Chicago residents to benefit from Divvy.

“We were eager partners because we knew our Centers were good enrollment sites. It was a great link,” said Dominique Williams, a LISC Chicago program officer. “We are always looking for ways to attract resources to our network. If it’s bikes that get them in the door, then great.”

LISC Program Officer Dominique Williams, practicing what she preaches.

In the first year, 1,088 people enrolled in the program, far surpassing the 750-person goal. Of those enrolled, 80 percent have taken at least one trip and 51 percent have taken 10 or more trips.

“The participants have taken advantage of our work readiness program and financial coaching as well,” said Gustavo Arellano, income support specialist at LISC’s Financial Opportunity Center at the Jane Addams Resource Center (JARC). “These are first-time users. Four hundred participants enrolled in the program at JARC last year – it’s great. We had a lot of people signing up in the summer.”

As the program enters its second year, marketing efforts will ramp up through Slow Roll Chicago, a community-based organization using bicycles to connect a diverse group of people, transform lives and improve the condition of communities by organizing community bicycle rides and other cycling-related programs throughout the greater Chicago area. 

The goal is to enroll 750 additional participants in 2016: 75 in Bronzeville, where a majority of the marketing efforts are focused, and 675 citywide. The participating enrollment centers are the Cara Program/Quad Communities, Metropolitan Family Services, Central States SER, Center for Changing Lives, and the Jane Addams Resource Corporation.

While the program gets people into the Financial Opportunity Centers, it provides neighborhoods on the South and West sides with better access to bike-share as well.

“There was a lot of need in our neighborhood,” said Arellano. “People struggle to get to places.”

According to a study by Julie Ursaki and Lisa Aultman of the University of Vermont’s Research Center, more disadvantaged groups traditionally had less access to bike share in most major cities, including Chicago. This program is one method of diminishing the disparity.

D4E marketing efforts will ramp up through Slow Roll Chicago, a community-based organization using bicycles to connect a diverse group of people, transform lives, and improve the condition of communities.

“We understood that the program would eliminate one of the barriers to enrollment – that you needed a credit or debit card, which people might not have,” said Williams.

“It makes their commute a little easier,” said Arellano. “It’s easier to move around the city. Instead of two trains and two buses, they can ride the bike for 30 minutes.”

Not only is it convenient, but D4E provides people with an opportunity to experience their neighborhoods in a different way. It brings people outside and into the community, which correlates with LISC’s goal to foster neighborhoods where people can live, work and play. In many ways, affordable access to bike share is a bridge to both.

More information about the D4E program is available here or by calling 855-55-DIVVY. More information about LISC Chicago’s Financial Opportunity Centers can be found here.

Posted in Financial Opportunities, Placemaking


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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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