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Some Divvy bikes left unlocked during outages

January 08, 2014|By Rachel Cromidas, @rachelcromidas | RedEye

The first winter in Chicago is never easy. Perhaps that's especially true for Divvy, the city's new bike share program.

The extreme weather has already tested every local form of transportation this year, and Divvy is among those that hit some unexpected snags.

A weekend snowstorm forced Divvy to shut down for the first time Jan. 2, but even after the bike-share program resumed operations Jan. 4 some stations were still experiencing problems. Some refused to let members check out bicycles, or return bikes they had already retrieved from another station. The system shut down again Jan. 5 and is scheduled to come back online Thursday.

"Some stations weren't successfully coming back up, and we had to either remotely reboot them or visit them," said Elliot Greenberger, the bike share spokesman.

On Saturday evening a handful of Divvy customers took to social media to alert the program that some of its stations were still shut off. In some cases, the users said they rode their divvy bikes to a destination only to find they couldn't dock the bikes at the nearest station.

In Lakeview and Lincoln Park, some stations had loose bikes that appeared to be docked, but were not locked into place and could be easily removed.

Greenberger said users could be charged $1,200--the value of a Divvy bike--if a bike is stolen while it is checked out under their name, but so far no one has been charged. He said users are discouraged from leaving bikes at stations where they cannot properly dock them, and on Saturday evening the customer service line was directing users to stations that were online.

The bike share program has a scale of extra fees for users who exceed their 30-minute time limit on a bike, but Greenberger said the program has been refunding users who experience problems returning their bikes on time.

Greenberger did not say how many stations were having trouble rebooting, or whether the stations could experience similar problems Thursday, when Divvy is slated to resume service.

Some users said they were temporarily inconvenienced, but would cut the fledgling program some slack.

"I'm not upset at all, it was extreme weather," said Josh Ellis, an urban planner who lives in the South Loop and was unable to check out a bike at his usual station, at 18th Street and Calumet Avenue, Saturday afternoon. "It's amazing that in May Divvy didn't even exist, and now we just assume it's going to be a normal part of our lives."

Greenberger said the heavy snow and subzero cold have posted the biggest challenges to Divvy, which requires daily maintenance, so far this year. "In some cases, stations are not touched by snow at all, but in other cases you'll see big piles of snow," he said. "And when conditions get bad,  whether it's a snowstorm or negative 15 below, sending staff out into the field is not something we feel comfortable doing."

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