Chicago

Divvy bike thefts are depleting the fleet, and making it harder for people to get bikes

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago Divvy bike was recently spotted a far away from home – all the way in Mexico City.

A Chicago resident, Ruperto Vergara, spotted the bike while visiting family and was shocked.

But it turns out the theft isn’t all that surprising. CBS 2’s Tara Molina has been digging into the bike share theft issue for weeks – and while they all don’t end up in another country, she is told the stolen bikes are affecting the program and those who depend on it across the city.

The theft issue is with regular pedal bikes, or classic bikes, which are free for the year for people with a subscription. Electric bikes are harder to steal, but cost extra.

We are told the theft problem is why it’s getting harder and harder for people to find a bike when they need it.

The stolen Divvy bikes are ending up everywhere. There was that one that ended up in the streets of Mexico City, and another ended up at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

We’ve seen Divvy bikes across Chicago ditched, dumped, and dragged.

Some have taken to social media to report stolen and abandoned bikes. Someone spotted a Divvy bike that had been painted black outside a Jewel-Osco store, and the 400 block of Asbury Avenue in Evanston was described by a Twitter user as a “Divvy graveyard.”

A spokesperson for Divvy issued this statement: “We’ve seen an uptick in theft of Divvy bikes and this has disproportionately impacted our pedal bike fleet. We are working closely with (the Chicago Department of Transportation) on a strategy to address the impacted fleet.”

With specific regard to the bike that ended up in Mexico City, the Divvy spokesperson said in a statement: “While we can’t blame this bike for heading south as Chicago’s winter sets in, the reality is that sometimes Divvy bikes are stolen and that impacts our riders in Chicago. To ensure we keep theft levels low, and based on our experience as the largest bikeshare provider in the country, our team constantly adapts to patterns of misuse by hardening our bikes, stations, and software against theft.”

Divvy parent Lyft went on to explain a spike in thefts around downtown Chicago has resulted in a decrease in the size of the total pedal bike fleet. Lyft added that the thefts track with greater crime trends in Chicago, as crime peaks in the summer.

Lyft said its e-bikes bikes are harder to steal because of anti-theft measures built into them. But such options are not available in the same way for pedal bikes, which have minimal internal electronics, Lyft said.

Meanwhile, through public records requests, Molina learned that through Sept. 21 of this year, 81 bikes have been stolen on record. This is compared to 64 last year, and 29 in pre-pandemic 2019.

The data show the thefts are happening across the city. This is a list from Chicago Police of Divvy bike theft reports from Aug. 23 until Sept. 22.

This is a list of all Divvy bike thefts from Jan. 1, 2019, until Aug. 23 of this year.


Divvy Theft Data by
Adam Harrington on
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The thefts have led to empty racks and headaches for users like Pam Martin.

“It’s just hard to find any,” Martin said. “Sometimes I walk to like three different stations, and by the time I walk, it’s been a half hour – it’s like, okay, I just wasted all this time.” 

Martin depends on Divvy bikes to get around. But as they get harder and harder to find, she says they’re becoming less dependable by the day.

“it’s just very frustrating,” she said.

What’s being done about that?

“I never hear back from anybody,” Martin said.

We started asking Chicago’s Department of Transportation, who contracts with Divvy, weeks ago. But they still haven’t shared specifics. CDOT did release this statement:

“Security of the Divvy fleet is a top priority for CDOT. Lyft, the operator of Divvy, has taken several steps to enhance system security and prevent theft, and we continue to communicate with CPD about potential stolen bikes. Divvy has continued to break ridership records and is the largest bikeshare system by service area in the country. CDOT is committed building on this success and ensuring that Divvy remains a safe and accessible transportation option for Chicagoans and visitors.”

CDOT also reported that Lyft has implemented numerous measures to help reduce and prevent thefts and losses.

Among them are a sweep of the Lakefront Trail and Riverwalk, among other areas, from Friday through Monday, and communications telling riders to re-park any bikes that are left on private property.

Divvy riders are advised never to leave bikes unattended, and to ensure they see a green light on bike docks so as to ensure bikes are properly locked. Divvy is also working to ensure dock mechanisms are working properly, and is also monitoring for fraud.

A spokesperson told us the city hasn’t called for such an action, but they are open to exploring the need and demand.

CDOT added that pedal bikes are regularly maintained and refurbished with components such as new brakes and seats, and are removed from the fleet when they are damaged beyond repair.

Anyone who sees an abandoned Divvy bike is asked to reach out to Divvy customer service online, through the Divvy app, or by calling 1-855-553-4889; tweet a photo @DivvyBikes and the hashtag #Divvyphonehome, or file a report with 311.

CDOT said if a police report is not filed, a missing or stolen Divvy bike will not be reflected in theft reports.  



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