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Chicago rolls out $5-per-year bike sharing program for low-income residents

City of Chicago

Chicago certainly has its problems, but its bike-share program, Divvy, is a trophy for the city: it's wildly popular, shares hardware with many of the world's major bike-share systems, it's substantially backed by public funding, and it has more stations than any other American program (including New York's Citi Bike). Now, Chicago is hoping to bring Divvy to a wider audience with today's announcement of "Divvy for Everyone," a discounted annual membership of just $5 for qualified applicants — that's $70 off the normal price. (Citi Bike also offers a discounted annual membership, but it's still $60.)

Cities haven't done a good job ensuring equal opportunity to take advantage of the explosion of bike sharing programs over the last decade: usage trends overwhelmingly white, male, and well-off, due in part to station placement and in part to pricing. $5 per year should put membership within reach of just about everyone. Applicants' households must bring in less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which would start at $35,310 for an individual with no children. The first 250 applicants are also going to get a free helmet, something that no bike-share user should ever be without.

While Citi Bike's stations are still primarily concentrated in wealthier parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, Divvy seems to be ahead of the game on station distribution — some currently reach as far south as 76th Street into the city's most underserved neighborhoods. With Netflix prices going up in town, maybe this is a good chance to get out on some bike paths.