Our Pledge To You


Divvy Diary: Free bike!

There is only one Thai dish, as far as I’m concerned: beef and broccoli.

And only one Thai restaurant makes it properly, Star of Siam on Illinois.

Which explains why last week I found myself biking past a dozen lesser restaurants, ramming my Divvy bike home, yet again, into a dock at State and Kinzie. Since sometimes the mechanism is broken, already closed, or the little green light doesn’t come on, I habitually give the handlebars a hard yank to be sure it’s securely locked in.

As I do this, vibration caused the bike to my right to roll back on its own and clatter to the sidewalk.

Obviously, whoever returned it is not a thorough person, such as myself, and did not ensure the bike was properly docked. I gaze at the fallen bike, sprawled on the sidewalk. I must have a larcenous soul. Because my first thought was “Free bike!” I could ride this Divvy anywhere, parking where I please. It was an off-grid Divvy. No need to lock it because it wasn’t mine in the first place.

I contemplate this.

A bike toppling out of its dock is something new. But otherwise, eight months into my second year as a Divvy rider, the system has become routine. I rode all winter, again. While Winter Year One had an “Ooh, it’s February and I’m riding a bike downtown” vibe, this winter it was ordinary, just what you do to get to the County Building, Millennium Park or the Clinton L station to grab the Pink Line west.

Divvy expands the city. I was sitting in my office last week looking around at the four walls and thought, “This blows.” Ten minutes later I’m blasting down Grand Avenue. I park the bike securely — how could people not check? — at Ashland, and walk west, stopping at a spot I never noticed before, Uncle Mike’s Place, 1700 W. Grand. Next thing I know I’m at the counter between Uncle Mike — owner Mike Grajewski — and John “No Relation to Tammy” Duckworth, who’s in construction. Slurping homemade lugao (chicken lemon soup), savoring marinated skirt steak (soaked in Kikkoman’s teriyaki sauce, garlic and 7-Up). Authentic Filipino cuisine; Mike’s wife, Lucia, is from the Philippines. He explains how even the napkins are the kind they have there. We talk napkin ply, talk concrete, talk about the election. It feels like happiness.

Speaking of the election, Divvy is a metaphor for the divided city. For guys like me, it’s great. The stations are generally where I want them, and there being none on the Divvy map south of 59th Street isn’t a hardship because I seldom want to go below 59th Street.

What about all those people living all those places not served by Divvy? The logic seems to have been: They’d just mess up the bikes anyway, so no need to give them the chance.

The logic up to now, that is.

Divvy will push to 75th Street this spring, adding 175 new stations. Will other parts of the city welcome Divvy, or scorn and abuse it? Maybe that depends on whether they feel Chicago is theirs to explore too. It’ll be interesting to find out. My hunch is that people generally do what they’re expected to do.

Me, I’m trained to behave.

So I didn’t swipe the free Divvy that tumbled at my feet. I stood it up, dutifully rolled it back and secured it into a dock, thinking that my membership has almost deputized me. Next thing you know, I’ll be carrying a seat patch kit.

My good deed done, I headed over to Star of Siam for their beef and broccoli. Fabulous, as always.