Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Is Your Neighborhood Hip Enough For A Bike Rental?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Have you ever found yourself annoyed by maps of Chicago that only show the city between Irving Park Road and 59th Street? Or by lists of the funkiest bars that don’t include any bars west of Western Avenue or south of Roosevelt Road, where most of the funk in this town actually dwells?

    You can bet Ald. Jason Ervin has. Ervin, who represents the West Side’s 28th Ward, complained last week about the parameters of the city’s new rent-a-bike program. This year, you’ll be able to rent a bike in an area bounded by Montrose Avenue to 43rd Street and the lakefront to Western. Next year, the bike-rental borders will expand: north to Devon, south to 63rd and west to California.

    “It leaves a huge swath of the city without the ability to use this,” Ervin said during a meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Traffic and Pedestrian Safety. “Why should people [who] live in outlying wards support putting [in] a system that you feasibly can’t use?”

    Because. The outlying wards aren’t populated by white hipsters, and everyone knows white hipsters are the only people who ride bicycles. Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, who is a white hipster himself, knows this. That’s why he hired Alta Bicycle Share from Portland -- the hippest city in America -- to oversee the bike program. And that’s why he’s not sending any bikes to Auburn-Gresham, Portage Park, Austin, West Lawn, Little Village, Rogers Park or Hegewisch. Because those neighborhoods aren’t as hip as Uptown, Bucktown, Pilsen, Logan Square, Ukrainian Village or Lake View. In the outer wards, there are no cycle shops selling helmets,  flashing lights and messenger bags.

    The bike rental map pretty closely parallels the Zipcar map. Which is sad, because people in the outer wards are really the ones that need more transportation options. They’re less likely to be served by L trains, and less likely to be able to afford cars and bicycles. In Altgeld Gardens, on 130th Street, the most remote housing project in the entire city, only 50 percent of the residents own cars. I’ll bet they’d like to rent a bicycle.

    If Zipcar only wants to make its Priuses available in the hip neighborhoods, that’s their business. If Kozy’s Cyclery doesn’t think it can make a profit in Pullman, that’s their business, too. But the bike rental program is a city project, paid for by taxes from all 50 wards. The city should put bikes in all 50 wards, not just the wards that already have all the cool stuff.

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