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Cook County Forest Preserves test-driving dockless bike share; 500 cycles to be available

Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Morgan Greene

It’s going to get a lot tougher to say “I don’t have wheels” the next time your friends want to cycle the trails and paths at the various Cook County forest preserves. 

Some 500 rental bikes are being rolled out as part of a dockless bike sharing pilot program covering many of the nearly 300 designated preserves in the county. 
Under the dockless system, users locate and unlock available bikes through an app rather than a fixed bike station such as Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing program. 

The bikes have internal locking systems so when riders are done they can drop them off whenever — and wherever — they wrap up their trip in the preserves. 
But officials say there will be return “hubs” dotting the forest preserves to deter bike clutter on or near the paths. Users pay an added fee if they don’t return bikes to the hubs. 

Chicago’s currently test-driving dockless bike share on the South Side. Two of the three companies behind the pilot program are pushing the city to eliminate what they see as a strict lock requirement for the bikes. Dockless programs have had growing pains in other cities because some users park bikes on the sidewalks. 

That’s what prompted the city of Chicago to institute a rule requiring bikes have the equipment to lock to a fixed object. The forest preserve pilot program, which wraps up in November, is a partnership between Bike and Roll Chicago, the local hub of the national bike rental company, and the app HOPR. 

To rent one of the dockless bikes, visitors need to download the HOPR app to their smartphone or tablet; the first 30-minute ride is free for a limited time. 

The app generally charges $2.50 per trip for 30 minute rides, or $60 for a seasonal membership that allows for 90 minutes of ride time per day through November 2018. 

If a bike is locked outside of a hub, riders will be charged a $2 fee. Additionally, if riders exceed the ride time included in their plan, there is a 10-cent-per-minute fee. Dockless bikes are currently available at some of the forest preserves, including North Branch Trail, as well as Cermak Woods, Dan Ryan Woods Central, Whistler Woods, Glenwood Woods North and Lansing Woods. 

They’ll be introduced at others in the coming weeks, according to the Forest Preserves District. An interactive map of dockless bike share hub locations and forest preserve trails is available at Twitter @morgreene

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