WGN radio host talks to CDOT’s Scott Kubly about bike sharing


Scott Kubly from the Chicago Department of Transportation talks about speed camera enforcement.

Jonathon Brandmeier, weekday morning host on WGN 720AM, talked to Scott Kubly on Friday, April 27, about bike sharing in Chicago. Kubly oversees the Bicycle Program’s implementation of the bike sharing program, among other projects, for the Department of  Transportation (CDOT).

Download the MP3 or listen to it in a Flash player on WGN’s website.

Brandmeier asks his co-host Hector what Hector thinks a bike sharing program entails. Then asks Kubly about the difference between bike rental and bike sharing. Bike rental usually has a checkout period of several hours and often requires that you return the bike where you picked it up. Bike sharing “penalizes” rides over 30 minutes by adding a “small charge by half hour”, according to Kubly, and you can return the bike at any of the kiosks. (The fee schedule for Chicago’s bike sharing system hasn’t been announced.)

Bike sharing is also a membership based system; annual passes will be $75 and day passes will be $7. Kubly says that for day passes the kiosk will “print a code” so users can input that code at any of the kiosks. Annual members will have a key fob to check out and check in bicycles.

Brandmeier asks if the bikes really cost $6,000, but Kubly advises they cost “a little over $1,100”. Kubly also said that 80% of the startup costs (manufacturing, installation, and software) are borne by federal funds, and that “all of the operating costs are going to be for by the users… a very small cost to the City of Chicago for a really great program”. In Washington, D.C., where Kubly and CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein previously worked, the Capital Bikeshare program there covered 97% of its operating costs with user fees since its start in September 2010.

Co-host Hector asks if the wheels will have generators to power lights. “Exactly”, replies Kubly. Brandmeier notes the bike’s basket in which Kubly says you can “put an iPad or a bag groceries in there”.

They discuss more aspects of the bikes and the program, including the many ways people use bike sharing bikes around the world. For example, Kubly says of the “slick” bike design that he’s ridden to work in a suit – the bikes have a chain guard – and Hector points out the design isn’t specific to men or women.

Brandmeier takes questions from callers. Here’s the first question, from Mark:

“What special bike is $1,100? I can go to Walmart and get a bike for $100 and put it on the rack.”

Kubly: “You could, but these bikes are designed to hold up to use by lots and lots of people. They’re going to be used by tens of thousands of people, 7-8 times a day.”

Touché. Please never buy a bicycle at Walmart or Target. In less than one year, you will regret it but you probably won’t know why. The bicycles sold at those stores use low-quality, non-standard parts that many bike shops cannot repair. If $100 is your budget, check out Working Bikes Cooperative.

2 thoughts on “WGN radio host talks to CDOT’s Scott Kubly about bike sharing”

  1. Thanks for the great write-up. I’m assuming the Chicago system will be very similar to the systems in Montreal and DC, since it will use the same bikes and stations. As someone familiar with those systems, I have a few minor clarifications:

    1) The “small charge by half hour” quote is a bit misleading. In the systems I’ve seen, if you go over the free 30 minute period, you generally get charged a small fee ($2 in DC) for the first additional 30 minutes, but then the price escalates dramatically for each additional 30 minutes after that ($6, $14, $22, $30, and so on in DC). The is done intentionally to strongly discourage longer trips without severely penalizing the occasional slip-up, and it is hardly a small charge after the 1st half-hour.

    2) The code system I’ve seen is a bit different from what you describe. In Montreal and DC, you purchase 24 hour pass or a 72 hour pass with your credit card. Then, each time you want to check out a bike at a station, you insert your card and the screen shows a code (something along the lines of 1-1-3-2-3), which you punch into keypad adjacent to the bike you want to take. The code works for 5 minutes at that station. For the duration of the pass, each time you take a bike you must swipe your card and get a new code. It’s mildly annoying, but after a few times you hardly notice. You can also order a key fob for monthly and yearly passes, which is much easier to use, as you just insert the fob into the slot next to the bike you want and then go.

    3) The other cool thing about the PBSC bikeshare bikes is that they use a completely unique set of parts and tools, specific to the bikeshare bikes. This means that the bikes cannot be taken apart with standard bike tools. It also means the parts don’t work on other standard bikes. This makes the bikes much less desirable for bike thieves, and is part of the higher cost to manufacture, in addition to the heavy-use requirements you mention in the article. The use of proprietary parts is pure genius, in my opinion, and makes these bikes well worth the price.

    1. Thanks for this information, Jacob.

      I’m very much looking forward to riding the bikes on the bikes. I’ve never ridden a bike share bike and I wish I didn’t have to wait an additional three months to do so.

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