The Divvy bike sharing service offers Chicago commuters and tourists the opportunity to enjoy Chicago up close. As a transplanted Chicagoan and proud Divvy user, I have a personal per-spective on where Divvy succeeds and where it can make some changes to deliver a better mobile experience.

What is Divvy?

Divvy is the European-inspired brainchild of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who served the city from 1989 to 2011. It launched in June of 2013 with 750 bikes at 75 stations. Div-vy is provided as a service of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and is operat-ed by private partner Motivate (formerly Alta Bicycle Share).

Success is all about satisfied users

Divvy operates in Chicago much the same as bike sharing systems in: Vélib’ (Paris), Santander (London), CitiBike (New York), and Pronto (Seattle). Racks of bikes are made available at Divvy stations throughout the city. After signing up, members can check out bikes at one bike station and return them to any other Divvy location. It’s an enjoyable, healthy, and eco-friendly way to commute or tour the city.

An annual Divvy membership is $75, discounted to $55 for students. Membership includes un-limited 30-minute-or-less rides. Some companies in Chicago even offer Divvy memberships to their employees. There is also a $9.95, 24-Hour Pass option for tourists or infrequent Divvy us-ers.

A Warm Welcome Turns Chilly

Divvy was warmly welcomed by Chicago residents, but suffered a few early setbacks.

Social media posts and articles from the 2013-2014 launch period revealed complaints and dis-couraged users. While users were excited about a healthy, sustainable, and accessible transpor-tation option, they were disappointed by the program’s execution.

Complaints included: lack of bikes in high traffic areas, a complicated sign-up process, and a lack of Divvy stations in some neighborhoods. WBEZ (Chicago’s NPR station) and the Chicago Tribune both called this struggle “the Divvy blues.”

The good news is that the early operations issues seem to be resolved: According to the Divvy website, there are now 4,760 Divvy bikes and 476 Divvy stations across Chicago. In addition, consumer complaints are down. (As further anecdotal evidence of Divvy’s progress, I find it hard to walk a downtown street without seeing several Divvy riders pass by!)

Divvy’s Branding & Mission

Divvy has a noble ambition: to bring a shared, sustainable, and healthy transportation option to one of America’s largest cities. Thanks to a collaboration between IDEO and Firebelly, Divvy has a great brand to support that mission.

Divvy bikes are designed to be durable and easy to use. Each bike has three speeds with frame-hidden cables, an adjustable seat, a basket that can secure your briefcase or backpack, and a mid-rise center bar that adds stability without sacrificing access.

Like many other public services in Chicago, Divvy is doing a great job of making their data avail-able to third-parties. There are already several consumer apps based on their data, helping riders find bikes, plan routes, and more.

Divvy Kiosk UI and Poor UX Speeds Bumps

I’m a Divvy member and fan—I love riding a bike to Lextech’s Chicago office from home! Often, I’ll ride it to meet friends around the city, and on a nice day, I’ll ride it for fun along the Lake Shore path.

But while speed isn’t an issue for my Divvy riding, there have been some speed bumps in my Divvy user experience. In fact, for a city that boasts some of the world’s best engineers, archi-tects, and artists—past and present—I’m astounded that the Divvy kiosk experience is so terri-ble. It’s embarrassing.

Here’s what I hate about the Divvy kiosk:

  • The Fob: Members can use an electronic key fob to check-out their Divvy bike, which works well. Except when I forget my fob. If that happens, I have to pay $9.95 for a day pass, even though Divvy has access to my membership information. Why can’t I sign in with an ID and get my bike?
  • Slow Station Process: There can be long lines at Divvy stations. Often, these lines are made up of tourists and can be at least 10 people long at the Divvy station near my home. If using the stations were a faster process, I’m sure these lines would be much shorter.
  • Slow System Response: The Divvy kiosk system moves very slowly from screen to screen. There is no UI cue to indicate that the system is working, or a “percent complete” indicator. This lack of clear communication results in repeated taps on the screen which further slows the system.
  • Poor Screen Flow: The screen flow and architecture is inefficient and frustrating. There are several unnecessary screens. For example:
    • Voucher code: Why is the “Enter your voucher code” screen the default? It’s a low frequency use case. It should be a selectable section of a larger page, not an entire screen or step in the standard purchasing process. Also, in the 24-Hour Pass check-out, the “Gift Certificate” screen occurs after you swipe your credit card. This is con-fusing because it’s not clear if a gift certificate holder will be charged up front. People using the 24-Hour Pass are typically new to Divvy or infrequent users, which makes it all the more complicated.
    • Requests ZIP code: I don’t know why this extra step is required. If this is a payment requirement (or best practice) there should be an explanation provided such as, “Enter ZIP code to verify payment.”
    • Asks for phone number: If Divvy provided a mobile app to let people sign in, they could skip this step. Divvy would already have my number in the system.
    • Visual design: The visual design of the Divvy kiosk is poor. It’s dated, and inconsistent with their fantastic branding.

Mobile App: Divvy’s Flat Tire

Divvy cruises with its brand and service, struggles with its kiosk and checkout experience, and comes to an abrupt stop with the Divvy app.

Divvy’s official app is Cycle Finder. The app has 4/5 stars in the Google play store and a sad 2/5 stars in Apple’s App Store.

User feedback on the iPhone app focuses on issues with the app’s screen flow and functions. These problems could have been easily addressed with strategic user testing or simply incorpo-rating the feedback from the many constructive reviews in further app updates.

It’s worth noting that the developer of the Cycle Finder app is the original bike system manufac-turer, PBSC (aka “Bixi”), who is no longer partnered with Divvy. Not surprisingly, the Cycle Find-er app has not been updated in almost nine months. Divvy still links to this app on its website, and it is still being promoted.

Fortunately, there are dozens of third party Divvy app options. I use Chicago Bike. This app has a slightly better rating (3/5 stars) in the App Store. It functions similarly to Divvy’s Cycle Finder app, providing a map of Divvy station locations and current bikes available. It also lists the near-est stations by distance, station name, or status (free, full, empty, out of order). It has a better design, but like Cycle Finder, it lacks Apple Maps’ directions integration.

There are many ways Divvy could upgrade their apps like gamification (see a friend’s mileage versus yours) and customer rating or feedback forms, but the most obvious missing feature is membership login and Apple Pay integration.

Keys to a Smoother Ride

The lack of app integration and poor kiosk experience are my two chief complaints of the Divvy experience, and frankly, they are very negative. My high-level recommendations:

  • The App: Scrap it and start again, or prioritize improvements. Mobile is too important to cus-tomers for Divvy to ignore. Membership login and mobile payment integration (Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other NFC-powered integrations) should be at the top of the feature list. Members should be able to walk up to the bike rack, press a button or code on their mobile device, and grab a bike. 24-Hour Pass users should be able to do something very similar. Not only could a well-designed mobile app be the key to expanding Divvy use and increasing cus-tomer satisfaction and membership rates, it could also be a key marketing tool. Don’t underes-timate customer engagement with things like push notifications—ride sharing notifications have a 30% engagement rate.
  • Bike station screen UI: Rework the screen flow and redesign the UI with the goal of speed-ing up the purchasing process.
  • Bike station backend: We have few details regarding the backend system running Divvy, but I’d be willing to bet that they’re not maximizing existing BI to improve the supply issue. Having a mobile app with customer ratings, quick feedback forms, and more customer metrics would capture valuable data that could help Divvy operations.

Keep Divvy Moving Forward

Divvy will continue to move forward by listening and responding to its users. If they do even half of the user research to improve their service as IDEO & Firebelly did to create Divvy’s branding, their business will achieve much greater success.

Success is all about satisfied users. After all, the world’s greatest branded bike sharing service means nothing if there’s nobody who wants to use it. Just as the world’s greatest carbon bike means nothing without someone to race it. Keep moving forward, Divvy…with mobile.

Image credit: danilsand / Shutterstock.

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What a way to get burned on your vacation! We visited Chicago and figured the best way to see the city and not fight parking was to bike. We got home and for renting 3 bikes for 4 hours we were charged $150. We could have used to tour bus and boats for that price!!! They scam you saying you rent a bike for 24 hrs for $9.95 but if you dont spend every 30 min searching for a new bike station to put it up, re-insert your card, get a new code and bike you get over charges. Who spends their whole day sight seeing going terminal to terminal? WILL NEVER USE AGAIN!!