Sunday, September 25, 2022

Millennium Park bike station closing at end of month

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Cyclist will need to find a new place to park their bicycles at Millennium Park beginning next month.

The park’s bike station, which has served commuters for the past 18 years, is closing for good, city officials said.

The 16,448-square-foot heated facility boasts over 300 parking spaces for bikes and was one of Millennium Park’s most applauded features during the park’s grand opening in 2004. Beyond parking, it offers an array of amenities: lockers, showers, rentals, tours — and even a bike shop for maintenance.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley celebrated the opening of the bike station, calling it the “first of its kind in the Midwest and one of the biggest in the nation … yet another step toward our goal of making Chicago one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country.”

Spaces were free, though cyclists pay to use the locker rooms and showers. Monthly and annual memberships were available for avid cyclists.

A spokesman with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which oversees the station, said it will permanently close on Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. and is the department “currently exploring options to determine the best use of this space.”

No timeline was provided for that process.

Jamey Lunblad, DCASE spokesman, said business conditions during and coming out of the pandemic forced the department’s hand. He would not provide details, such as whether use of the station had declined.

City officials have been tight-lipped, providing little notice or details of the impending closure, which was first reported by Streetsblog Chicago.

The station, highlighted by a glass atrium, cost $3.1 million. Its cost was covered by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, according to city officials at the time.

In 2006, McDonald’s purchased the naming rights with a $5 million endowment to the park — enough to cover the bike station’s operational and maintenance costs for 50 years, the Chicago Sun-Times reported at the time.

HUB312 at 239 E. Randolph St. in Millennium Park, photographed on Sept. 20, 2022.

HUB312, 239 E. Randolph St., in Millennium Park. The bike station, offering storage, lockers and showers, will close for good Sept. 30.

Now called Hub312, the station was operated by Bike & Roll since its inception in 2004. But last year, the City Council approved a three-year concession agreement with Shift Transit, a shared mobility company, with an optional two-year extension.

The agreement called for the company — whose CEO launched Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing program — to pay an annual license fee of $60,000 in addition to an escalating percentage gross of sales that ranged from 3% in the first year to 7% in the last year of the contract.

The contract anticipated annual average gross revenue of $556,600 per year over the five year contract.

A spokesperson with Shift Transit wouldn’t answer any questions regarding any refunds of those annual membership fees, or the number of current members. They simply reiterated that business conditions were behind the closure.

The closure of the bike station undercuts the city’s efforts in recent years to promote cycling as a means of healthier living and greener modes of transportation. The city has expanded its bike lanes in neighborhoods, started adding 25 miles of concrete-protected lanes and distributing 5,000 free bikes to eligible residents.

Kyle Lucas, co-founder of the transit advocacy group Better Streets Chicago, said he was disappointed in the closure “particularly at a time where our city sorely needs investment in things like secured bike parking facilities.”

“We need a commitment from Mayor Lightfoot’s administration to sustainable transportation, but unfortunately we once again see their lack of vision and courage to chart a path forward for a better mobility future in Chicago,” Lucas said.

The station’s website states it is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. But on Tuesday this week, the station was closed when a reporter checked around noon.

The posted hour sign listed just zeroes on the weekdays. A paper sign stated “hours may vary.”Nothing on the door or the website indicated the impending permanent closure, though the website still offered day passes and annual memberships for sale.

Jennifer Myers of Old Town was riding her bike around Millennium Park on Tuesday and while she isn’t a member of the bike station, she said she did occasionally park her bike there.

“I’ve used it dozens of times and it’s usually comforting knowing that I can park my bike in a safe location while I meander around the park or downtown,” 37-year-old Myers said. “I hate to see it go.”

No weekdays hours are posted anymore at HUB312, the Millennium Park bike station. It is closing for good Sept. 30.

No weekdays hours are posted anymore at HUB312, the Millennium Park bike station. It is closing for good Sept. 30.

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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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