Austin left out of Chicago’s bike-sharing program

September 18, 2013
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It’s been three months since the city’s highly touted bike-sharing program launched, mainly Downtown and in some North Side neighborhoods.

Back in July, the Chicago Tribune reported that because the Divvy bike-sharing network is centered in crowded neighborhoods, the result is that many South and West Side neighborhoods, including Austin, have been left out.

The new transportation alternative is far more convenient for white residents than those who are black or brown, the Tribune analysis showed.

Tribune reporters Bob Secter and Alex Bordens reported that nearly 16 percent of African-Americans live within a quarter mile of the bike stations, while nearly half of all whites in the city live within a short walking distance — a quarter mile or less — of spots the city has designated as stations.

Gabe Klein, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transportation commissioner, said the bike system’s initial framework has nothing to do with race. Rather, he explained, it follows a classic development pattern that grew rail networks in the 19th century, highways in the 20th and car-sharing services in the 21st.

“This is how most transit starts,” he told the Tribune. “It starts in the densest area of cities and then expands out.”

The Tribune’s story comes on the heels of a WBEZ piece that aired June 28th, the day the city’s bike-sharing program launched.

WBEZ Reporters Robin Amer and Chip Mitchell noted in their report that the city has had a checkered history of providing low-income residents equal access to public infrastructure. And they asked the question: Who gets to share the benefits of Chicago’s new bike-sharing program?

There are no stations south of 63rd Street or west of Central Park Avenue, WBEZ reports. Altogether, black West Side neighborhoods like Austin, North Lawndale, East and West Garfield Park, and West Humboldt Park will have just two of the 400 planned bike-sharing stations.

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