ISWE had two goals on a recent part-day trip to Chicago 1) visit the Chicago Tesla store to see what's new in the world of gasless transport and 2) enjoy riding around in Chicago loop traffic for a while.Silly Brommie, you can't be a Divvy
1) Tesla was a really interesting stop for ISWE. With the Model S, Tesla seems to really be on it's way to a legitimately practical automobile. The Model S has a whopping 232 mile range, a durable aluminum body, nothing in the boot or bonnet (gobs of storage space) and of course does not spew any yucky black, blue, or otherwise invisible exhaust. ISWE members will certainly appreciate the latter. There's nothing worse than working up some decent cardio activity only to stop at an intersection and take in a full lungful of smog. Yuk. That experience can't end too soon. Add in that electricity is about 20% the cost of gas (like buying gas right now for about .76/gallon) and an even cheaper Tesla on the way and we've got some good news for the US, motorists, and people who like to do things like breathe air. The Tesla staff also seemed interested in the ISWE Brompton and pleased to learn that it (unlike the Tesla for now) generates all of it's own electricity :)
2) Chicago streets are always a treat for ISWE. While Indianapolis is well on its way to becoming a bike-friendly city, it has a long way to go to match Chi-town. While the bike lanes in Indy represent some sort of for-now-indecipherable hieroglyphics for Indy drivers, a lot of Chicago drivers already get them, even when they're not there. In other words, even without bike lanes, most Chicago loop drivers seem to know you're waiting on their left at a light or slipping partially concealed between a bus and some taxi cabs, and they're OK with it. While the presence of a bike on the street in Indy sends some drivers into total freakout mode, a similar presence in Chicago seems to engender a proud, "Yeah, we got bikes, no biggie" from even the most timid-looking drivers. While it's easy for cyclists to quickly pick up how bike lanes (or the lack thereof) work simply by following the bicycling ambassadors (the bike in front of you that knows what it's doing), things are a little more difficult for motorists. They have to learn on their own to look for bikes in pretty much the last places they would expect to see them, that is anywhere but right up against the curb on the right side of the street (a place that will get a cyclist clobbered when a driver looks left to check for oncoming traffic while turning right, right over bike and rider). Hopefully it won't take too long to get Indy drivers up to bike-friendly savvy. Until then, we'll enjoy our trips in Chicago just a little bit more :)
Another interesting transportation finding in Chicago was the City's new Divvy bike sharing program. There were Divvy bikes everywhere! Divvy launched with 75 stations (like that pictured) equipped with 750 bikes. Riders made 4,123 rides on those bikes on just the opening weekend of the program. Soon, Chicago hopes to have 300 stations with 3,000 bikes. Wow! Is it just me, or is that a lot of bikes? That's a lot of bikes!
The stations work on 24-hour or annual passes at $7 and $75 respectively. Sub-30-minute rides are free. Longer rides cost a few dollars. Hmmm? Note to wife: bringing the Brompton in the trunk of the car, saved us $6 to $8 for my ride. I told you the Brompton was a wise investment :)
Seriously, these Divvys were all over the place. It's an amazing program. It will introduce a lot of people to cycling. It will have positive health effects. And, it will give tourists something to do other than snake around in creepy long lines of slow-moving Segways.
Internally geared three-speed hub and mystery brake
Mechanically, these things appear to be built like tanks. They have bulky frames, a front rack that looks like it could support a bag of cement (if you could find some way to get it on the rack) and interestingly, some very folding bike features. Hmmm...
A close look at the rear hub of the Divvy reveals what appears to be an internally geared three-speed hub, a lot like the Sturmey Archer on the Brommie. And, what? That rear brake looks similar to the old-fashioned/strange band brake on the Dahon Stow Away we recently spotted on the IUPUI campus. Both are smart choices for commuter bikes because they keep the elements (and other stuff) away from the important stuff. Like the Brommie, they also have active lighting systems front and rear. Cool.
We'll, thanks to having the folding bike in the trunk during the wife's meeting in the loop, our short stay in Chicago turned into a 20-mile tour of transportation technology for the future--a mini Columbian exposition. Not too bad little Brompton, not too bad at all.