Updated 06/14/13 – 11:22 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Cyclists descended on Daley Plaza on Friday morning to tout the benefits of pedaling to work during a rally to end Chicago Bike Week.
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood helped the spandex-wearing crowd at Daley Plaza.
Many of those at the rally got to Daley Plaza by first riding along a new stretch of protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue to get from the Northwest Side to the city’s central business district.
The city opened a new mile-long protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue from Elston Avenue to Kinzie Street on Thursday.
Milwaukee Avenue is one of the most popular streets for cyclists in Chicago, as thousands of them use the roadway each day to commute from the Northwest Side to downtown Chicago.
Some at the Daley Plaza rally were newcomers to riding their bike to work, like Mary, a Lincoln Park resident.
“It’s just so much more efficient. I get home in like half the time that I did if I drove or took the bus,” she said.
Others, like Chuck from Wilmette, were longtime road warriors.
“I’ve been riding to work for 15 years, and it’s better now than it’s ever been in terms of safety and awareness,” he said.
City officials also showed off the bikes that will be available to rent under the new bike sharing program known as Divvy. The program had been set to kick off on Friday, but was pushed back two weeks to allow more time for testing.
Daley Plaza will have 23 bikes at its docking station, and will be one of the first 75 bike sharing stations to open this summer, with 950 bikes available for rent. Eventually, the city plans to have 400 bike sharing stations citywide by next spring, with 4,000 bikes in the program.
Annual memberships for the program are available for $75 to $125 each, allowing members to use any Divvy bike for up to 30 minutes at a time. Usage fees kick in after 30 minutes. Daily passes are also available for $7, also allowing riders to use a bike for up to 30 minutes at a time before paying extra.
“The credit goes to all of you cyclists. Thank you for making Chicago the biggest, the boldest bike share program in America. You should all be very, very proud,” LaHood said.
The city has added several miles of dedicated bike lanes to city streets in recent years – many of them separated from vehicle traffic by sets of barriers or parking spots – as well as bike specific traffic lights along Dearborn Street, which has the city’s first protected two-way bike lane.
To sign up for the city’s bike sharing program, click here.