Friday, July 05, 2013

Chicago Bike Sharing - Divvy Review

All these blue bikes started popping up around Chicago over the last week or two, so I decided to take one out for a spin to see what they were all about.

Divvy is Chicago's answer to the Citi Bike in New York City. Its a bike sharing program subsidized by the Chicago Department of Transportation. The plan is for Chicago to have more than 4000 bikes across 400 stations strategically positioned around the city, though right now there are only about 60 stations, each with between 10 and 25 parking slots.

How does it work? There are two methods.

1) 24 hour pass - You pay $7 for a 24 hour pass which entitles you to unlimited 30 minute rides, good for tourists in town for a short time, one-off rides when you can't get a cab or the bus will take too long, or perhaps a trial run.

2) Annual pass - You pay $75 (or less with employer sponsorship) for unlimited 30 minute rides.

Each option has a overage rate which is automatically charged to your credit card if you keep the bike out for longer than 30 minutes. And if you never return the bike, they (attempt) to charge you $1200 for stealing the bike.

The system is not designed for long afternoon tourist rides or really long commutes - there are better options for that which Divvy will gladly point out on their website. The system is designed for short A to B trips that might be accomplished otherwise with vehicle traffic or your own bicycle. Divvy makes sense for quick trips to the grocery store or other errands, running out for lunch, a 20-30 minute bike commute to work, meeting up with friends, etc... You don't need to bother with storing the bike or locking it (assuming you place it securely into a Divvy station) or even coming back to get the bike later if you choose to take another transportation option later.

I decided to give the $7 option a trial run - which is a great way to familiarize yourself with the system before committing to the $75 annual pass. I 'dipped' my credit card into a kiosk at a station nearby my office at about 5:30pm on Tuesday. After running through what seemed like WAY too many TL;DR agreement screens, the machine finally spit out a 5 digit code printed on a receipt. Then I took the code down the rack to the chosen bicycle, and punched the 5 digit code into the locking mechanism and it released the bicycle to me.

A friend and I rode about 10 minutes towards my apartment building (yes I live very close to where I work) where another station was located about 500 feet away from front door. At that station I inserted the bicycle into the locking mechanism until the green light came on (very important to see that green light!) which did take one or two attempts before I figured it out. Basically you slam the bike all the way into the slot and hold it there. If the green light doesn't come out in about 5 seconds, pull it out and slam it in again. If the station you are returning to is full, you can go to the kiosk, report it full, and obtain another 15 minutes to go park at another station.

At that point we decided to take another bike out for another short trip to the grocery store. This time I selected "obtain a code" after first choosing English as my language. I dipped my card into the machine again, agreed to follow traffic laws, and it spit out another receipt with a code. I entered the code again, pulled the bike out, adjusted the seat (I am about a 6-7 on the notches marked on the seat post) and we were off to the grocery store. And so it went, I rode another Divvy back from the grocery, one to work the next morning, and again out to lunch and back the next afternoon. I could have ridden it to the bar after work as well, but had other plans. I could probably get 3 commutes out of a 24hour pass depending on when I come and go to work, which puts it on par with the CTA and certainly if you buy the annual pass and want to use it regularly. You're in the money in less than a month if you take a Divvy every day instead of the CTA!

The bikes themselves are sturdy, well built, and somewhat heavy. They have 3 gears which makes peddling easy for anyone. The have front and rear LED lights powered by the drive train I believe. The brakes, wheels, handlebars, and easily adjustable seats are all solid and comfortable. They also come with a bell! What they don't come with is a bike helmet - and Chicago is not, yet, the most bike friendly place. The ride is a bit slow - I would estimate the best you could do is about 3-4 miles in 30 minutes (7-8mph) if you follow traffic signals.

In the end - when all the stations are installed, and the bikes can be found as easily as a Starbucks, I think this will be a really great addition to the city and really useful to a wide range of people.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nexus One Battery Drain

If you are having a problem with your Nexus One draining battery too faster after Gingerbread OS updated, take a look at the wifi settings.

Navigate to:
wireless & networks
wifi settings
wifi sleep policy

Setting Wi-Fi to "never sleep" or "sleep when screen turns off" should solve the problem.

This forum thread has further explanations:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

BeerDownload Podcast

I wanted to just write a quick post about the beer podcast I have been co-hosting for the past year. We started doing the podcast in January 2010, and as of now we have put out a new episode for 59 straight weeks (if you count episode 0). The whole idea is that we are doing a 256 beer tournament, where each week we take 2 beers and drink them and decide which one is better. Eventually we will come up with the best beer out of more than 1000 that we originally started with. We also talk about local/national/international beer news and the whole thing is over in about 30 minutes.

So I invite you to head on over to the website we have setup for the podcast and have a listen. And you should probably go have a beer as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I guess I don't look like John Ritter anymore - at least not like I did in late 2006.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicagoland Brewpub Shootout 2010

The 12th Annual Chicagoland Brewpub & Microbrewery Shootout was held on Saturday January 23, 2010 at the newly renovated Erin room at the Irish-American Heritage Center in Chicago, Illinois. Nobody ever seems to post the results, so I took the liberty. Personally I feel that while Rock Bottom North & South took away 1st place plaques for both food and pairing, they always win something, so really it's too expected. They have the resources to make the best beer and food possible, so it would be shocking if they didn't win something. On the other hand I think Flossmoor Station really came out well, earning two separate plaques for beer and pairing, meaning their beer (which is what the competition is really all about) was better than the Rock Bottom's, who didn't win any straight beer awards. Additionally, Gordon Biersch seemed to have gotten the shaft, going away with zero awards for what I thought was a very tasty pairing, especially their Marzen, which I love. New comers this year were Half Acre (yes, I know, they don't really have a brewpub, but we enjoyed having them regardless) as well as Revolution Brewing (again, no official brewpub location, yet) and Lucky Monk.


Best Food
1st: Rock Bottom North & South - Boneless short rib
2nd: Lucky Monk - Pork Shoulder Sandwich
3rd: Rock Bottom East & West - Thai Banh Boa Belly

Best Beer
1st: America's Brewery (Walter Payton's Roundhouse) - Bourbon Fass Bavarian Gerste Wein
2nd: Flossmoor Station - Dry-hopped Panama Limited Red Ale
3rd: Goose Island - Frankenporter

Best Pairing
1st: Rock Bottom North & South - Boneless short rib and Fallen Angel Belgian Dubbel
2nd: Flossmoor Station - bacon wrapped shrimp with slaw and Dry-hopped Panama Limited Red Ale
3rd: Brickstone Brewing - Mini Filet Mignon Sliders and Hop Injection IPA

Copy of the program with my notes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cuddl Duds

Alyssa borrowed Melissa's Cuddl Duds back before Christmas to try out and also wear while we were skiing in Switzerland. She loves them so much she had to get a set for herself. Why don't they make Cuddl Duds for guys?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chicago Card Plus vs U-Pass

Back in April of 2009 I wrote about the crap system the CTA uses to "improve" payment/boarding of their trains and busses.

I have an addendum that I need to add:

If you are a student, and your college participates in the program, you can get a discounted unlimited ride pass called u-pass. However, the u-pass comes in the format of the "disposable plastic magnetic swipe card" instead of the "credit card style prox card." Signing up an average city college to this program effectively converts, to an older/slower technology, thousands of middle income riders that would probably be on mommy-daddy/financial aid financed chicago cards instead. This effectively slows the entire system of boarding on trains and busses and increases maintenance costs - which is really the opposite of the desired effect of the Chicago Card. These plastic magnetic cards are printed with your name and picture, presumable making them difficult to share with your friends or resell - but they could just as easily print up the "slightly" more expensive prox cards and speed transit through their system. They could also make the prox-cards work on an automated system as opposed to the current system where I have to go pickup a new u-pass each quarter/semester as the previous one expires. I guess the figure the cost of the fancier cards is more than the cost of added maintenance and slowness of their buses.

And really, CTA makes more revenue off the u-pass than they would if students paid full fare because ALL students at a participating school are charged the "discounted" fee for the pass and are unable to waive. So the CTA obviously knows that the percentage of people that don't use the pass but are charged for it outweighs the discounts they offer.

Technology and innovative programs are not always improvements!

Textbooks are expensive

I think I need to go into the textbook publishing business. For two classes it is going to run me about $300 and that is with used books and Amazon discounts. Ugh.

Here are my classes for Spring Quarter

Statistical Techniques in Business and Economics with Student CD

Service Management: Operations, Strategy, Information Technology w/Student CD

Also - I am stupid for not remembering to create these affiliate links more often when I order stuff from Amazon. Amazon even makes it SOOOOOOOO easy with their affiliate toolbar