CDOT releases more details on ‘Bike Chicago’ free bike program – Streetsblog Chicago

The Lori Lightfoot administration previously announced plans to combat high gas prices by offering $5 million in free transit passes (which was a great idea) and $7.5 million in bus passes. free gas (which was a nightmarishly bad idea). offer a major benefit to Chicagoans who want to get around town by bike.

Last month, the Chicago Department of Transportation provided Streetsblog with preliminary information about how the planned giveaway will work on how the planned giveaway of 5,000 bikes will work, along with safety and maintenance materials. Today, CDOT officially announced details of the program, dubbed “Bike Chicago.” The program is funded by the $188 million Chicago Recovery Plan (formerly called the Climate Recovery Plan), which the city says will fund “climate change mitigation and environmental justice initiatives.”

The 5,000 bikes will be distributed over four years, with at least 500 bikes distributed to eligible residents based on age and income in the first year of the program. Online and paper applications will be accepted July 18 through August 4, with bike distribution beginning in August. Depending on demand, the city may use a lottery in years 2 through 4 of the program to determine which eligible residents will receive bicycles.

Image: CDOT
Image: CDOT

“Cycling is an affordable, sustainable and healthy form of transportation that reduces traffic congestion and improves quality of life,” CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi said in a statement. No lie was detected there. “In addition to improving and expanding the city’s network of bike paths and bike paths, CDOT is committed to making bicycling a more popular and convenient option for all residents – and Bike Chicago will do just that. . We are excited to launch this program and begin distributing bikes and safety gear this summer and over the next few years.

“Every resident of our city deserves equitable access to safe, reliable and affordable clean transportation options,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Bike Chicago is accelerating both the city’s climate and equity goals by providing new workforce access routes, bikes and support resources that promote safe cycling and a healthy, low-carbon transportation ecosystem for all Chicagoans. »

Of course, if Lightfoot really cared about reducing carbon emissions, she could have just chosen not to pay taxpayers $7.5 million to drive. But let’s recognize her when she’s doing something positive to fight climate change, and the bike gift falls solidly into that category.

For the first year of Bike Chicago, some of the bikes will be assembled and distributed to participants of CDOT’s Greencorps Chicago Youth Program, a green jobs training program for children in Chicago’s public high schools. Other bikes will be distributed to other participants in CDOT 2022 mobility programming, including Chicago SAFE Ambassadors’ Learn to ride program, Open Boulevards events, and then on a first-come, first-served basis for residents who qualify. To get a free bike, you must:

  • Be a resident of Chicago;
  • Be at least 14 years old (teens under 18 will need a parent or guardian when picking up the bike and equipment)
  • Have a household income at or below 100% of the area median income for Chicago
  • Not already own a bicycle;
  • Facing higher mobility difficulties OR
  • Participate in a CDOT Mobility program.
Community spaces with "great difficulty of mobility" are indicated by darker colors on the map.  Image: City of Chicago
Community areas with “higher mobility difficulties” are indicated by darker colors on the map. Image: City of Chicago

The online application and paper application will be available after July 18 at The app asks for the size of the recipient, so they can be paired with a bike of the correct size.

If you are entitled to a bicycle and equipment, the city will inform you of the pick-up location and times. For the first year of the program, the city plans to distribute bicycles in August and September 2022.

  • If you participate in Green Corps programs, the bike and accompanying equipment will be distributed as part of the program.
  • If you are participating in a Learn to Ride program, staff will coordinate with you to pick up a bike and equipment from a distribution site.
  • If you are attending a CDOT Open Boulevards event, staff will coordinate with you to pick up a bike and gear from a drop-off location in town.

The program sounds good, with the only criticism that the income requirement should be lowered. As it stands, a single person earning $73,000 can get a free bike. If you make that much money, you can easily afford to buy your own bike, so the bike should be given to someone with a lower income instead.

The income requirements for a free bike.
Income required for a free bike by household size.

When recipients pick up their bikes, they receive a packet of information on how to navigate the streets of Chicago safely (as best they can in a city that doesn’t have a network of consistent, protected bike lanes ) and maintain their bike. The free bikes will be a single-speed commuter model (you don’t really need more than one gear to get around our pancake town), designed to be simple to maintain.

Additional information about Bike Chicago is available here.

Christy J. Olson