The launch of Chicago's Divvy bicycle-sharing service, set for Friday, will be postponed for two weeks to allow "more extensive testing" of equipment, the city's transportation commissioner told the Tribune on Tuesday.
The disappointing decision to delay the long-awaited program, which originally was supposed to start operating last year, was made over the past 24 hours by the Chicago Department of Transportation and its business partner that will operate the $22 million federally funded experiment, Alta Bicycle Share Inc., officials said.
"We had a few pieces of equipment arrive late, so we couldn't do the extensive testing we would like to do. But the decision was also based on an over-abundance of caution," said Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.
"You will see (bike-docking) stations starting to go up around the downtown, but we are not going to turn on the service for members to use on Friday as had been planned during Bike to Work Day."
Detailed testing will be conducted over the next two weeks, Klein said.
Asked whether Alta bears responsibility for the setback, Klein said the company "is still meeting the letter of the contract." The move to "take a little extra time was a collaborative decision with the Divvy team," he said.
Before coming to Chicago from Washington, D.C., where as the district's transportation director he helped introduce bicycle-sharing in the nation's capital, Klein worked as a consultant to Alta. He said he recused himself from the decision in Chicago to pick Alta as the city's bike-share contractor.
The new start-up date for the Divvy service is June 28, he said. As planned, 75 stations will be in operation by the end of the month, with about 400 stations by next spring, according to CDOT.
Bike-sharing is designed extend the reach of mass transit by giving commuters an extra option to complete the first or last mile or two of their daily trips. In downtown Chicago, stations will be spaced 3-4 blocks apart on average and be situated near CTA and Metra rail stations. The spacing will be extended in neighborhoods, officials said.
About 950 three-speed Divvy bikes have been delivered to Chicago and are ready to go, CDOT officials said.
Concerns that led to the delay of the Divvy launch are related to testing of communications technology and software that are needed to link the stations and the bike-sharing network, officials said.
More than 1,200 annual memberships to Divvy have been sold, at $75 to $125 each, officials said. The memberships will allow for unlimited uses of up to 30 minutes. Overtime charges will apply after 30 minutes.
Annual members will use personally registered key fobs to check out the bike-share bikes from docking stations. The key fobs have not been mailed out yet, CDOT said, adding that the annual memberships will not begin until the key fobs are registered.
Daily passes will also be sold for $7 for 30 minutes.