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“I had not heard about the bike deal. It doesn’t seem fair that one company is going to be able to monopolize [Chicago’s bikeshare] industry,” Roseland resident Tira McBride says while waiting for the bus on 95th Street.

Many Black folks on the South and West sides haven’t heard about the Chicago Department of Transportation’s proposal for an exclusive $50 million deal with Lyft to modernize and expand Divvy’s bikeshare program.

The proposal, which is up for a City Council vote on April 10, would make Lyft the only rideshare company able to operate the city’s bikeshare system.

“That sounds very similar to the parking meters,” McBride says. In the 2008 parking meter deal, the city leased its parking meter system to a private company for 75 years for a $1.16 billion lump sum.

“You’re going to have a company that has the potential and ability to raise [bikeshare] prices, especially in our neighborhoods, because we know we do tend to pay higher fees and higher costs for our facilities,” McBride says. “I can’t say that’s fair at all.”

On the West Side, resident Charles Bracey likened the exclusive Lyft deal to the city’s 2004 deal which leased the Chicago Skyway toll road for 99 years to a private consortium for $1.8 billion.

“I don’t agree with it,” Bracey says.

In December, rideshare company Uber sent an unsolicited proposal to operate its dockless JUMP bikes and scooters in Chicago alongside Divvy’s existing docked bikes. JUMP’s deal, which would have expanded bikes to all 50 wards in 2019, was valued at $450 million in investments over five years.

Lyft’s deal would expand bikes to all 50 wards by 2021, and provide at least $77 million in cash to support Chicago’s transportation system. In a Chicago Sun-Times letter to the editor, CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld wrote that an exclusive Lyft partnership is the best deal for taxpayers.

“To make it exclusive simply forces us out of Chicago,” says Robert Kellman, Uber’s global head of government affairs and policy for bikeshare.

The impact of an exclusive bikeshare deal would be most felt on the South and West sides, Kellman explains. During a pilot program last year, JUMP placed 350 red bikes on the South Side and opened its warehouse on 115th Street. Once the pilot program ended in November, the city ordered JUMP to take its red bikes off the street.

If the City Council approves the exclusive Lyft deal, Uber would be forced to shutter its bikeshare warehouse, taking away jobs from the South Side.

McBride remembers seeing red JUMP bikes near the Red Line train on 95th. She rarely sees the blue Divvy bikes in Roseland.

“If there’s a way for the companies [Uber and Lyft] to operate simultaneously, and make it advantageous for everybody, I think that’s the way they should do it,” McBride says.

Kellman says Chicagoans should contact their aldermen about the bikeshare deal.

“We’re simply asking them to make [the city’s bikeshare contract] non-exclusive so that any company that wants to invest in the South and West sides is able to do so,” Kellman says.

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