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North Siders’ opinions diverge on Divvy bike racks

A Divvy bike-sharing statiChicago's Lake View neighborhood.  |  Sun-Times MediFiles

A Divvy bike-sharing station in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood. | Sun-Times Media Files

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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:19AM

Call it the “Tale of Two Bike Racks.”

One is considered the best of ideas; the other the worst of ideas.

But one thing’s for certain, a Lake View couple is kicking up a dickens of a fuss over the one installed outside their condo.

“Ugly” and “monstrosity” are the words condo association president David F. Kolin used Thursday to describe the Divvy bike rack outside his Lake View building. He filed a lawsuit on behalf of his condo association against the city seeking removal of the bike rack.

The lawsuit contends that the bike rack, outside 3565 N. Pine Grove on a leafy residential block, will bring with it home devaluation, noise, litter and strangers who could pose a threat to children.

Another new Divvy bike rack is only a mile away in Uptown, where opinions about it couldn’t be more different.

“I just think it’s great to have the accessibility of bikes,” said Mike Bless, 34, who lives a block from the Uptown bike rack, which is adjacent to a grocery store parking lot at Montrose and Sheridan.

“My girlfriend and I were just talking about how convenient this one is . . . now we can just ride a bike to Navy Pier or downtown and then take a cab or a train back,” Bless said.

Divvy bikes can be rented in 30-minute intervals for $7. Hundreds of the solar-powered stations are sprouting up across the city.

Kolin couldn’t be unhappier with the bike rack just installed near his Lake View building.

“It’s five steps from my front door,” Kolin, an attorney, said Thursday.

“It’s the ugliest damn thing,” he said.

The rack will bring unwanted traffic and lower property values for the three-unit building , he notes.

“Strangers will be at the front door, 24 hours a day and children who come and go from the building, which has no doorman, will be at risk,” Kolin said in the suit filed Wednesday. The station “will destroy thousands of dollars of improvements made by the resident members.”

Kolin and neighbors were unhappy when they found out this week that the bike station would be installed. That prompted Kolin and his wife, Jeannine M. Cordero, to file suit to block it. By the time the suit was filed, the station had been installed. The couple still plan to move forward with legal action, hoping to have the station moved to a higher-traffic area.

City Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales said in a statement that the location was chosen as the “safest” for the area. “This residential street location was determined to be the safest for customers near the busy intersection of Addison and Lake Shore Drive. It is located in the public way, close to the curb on the street, and not on any private property.”

The statement also said, “We are aware of the request from a few residents to relocate the Divvy station away from their building on Pine Grove Avenue near Addison Street,” but he did not say if any action will be taken.

A message left at the ward office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was not returned.

Farther north in Uptown, Martha Castillo, a cashier at Jake’s restaurant, thinks the new bike rack across the street is located perfectly.

“It brings young people who want to go to the lake to our business,” said Castillo, who stood near a spinning gyro spit on Thursday. She hopes to be serving new customers who rent the Divvy bikes.

Kristina Legan, who lives in a condo across the street, agrees with Castillo, but she feels for the condo owners in Lake View.

“Absolutely this is a great this for the neighborhood. But if it was on the sidewalk in front of my place, I would have a problem with that,” said Legan, 32, who works in the servicing department of a mortgage company. “When you buy a condo, you don’t think you’re going to have a bike rack right in front. Who would want that?”

Rolled out in June, the Divvy bike rental program has thus far been a success, with more than 50,000 bike trips logged as of late July, city officials have said.

“Something like this is eco-friendly, it’s attractive, it promotes the idea of getting some exercise, seeing the city without burning up fossil fuels, and bike-riding is just fun,” said Oz Owen, a volunteer with a local chamber of commerce. “And also I think it stimulates the economy a little bit.”

Confronted with assertions presented in Kolin’s lawsuit about unwanted trash from bicyclists, Owen said: “Maybe those people just have those undergarments in a bundle. . . . I think the demographic of people who are cyclists, especially if they’re willing to rent a bicycle, they’re not the kind of people who litter, they’re eco-friendly people.”

Kelly White, who loves the new bike racks in Uptown, said the Lake View condo owners “should get over it, let people ride.”

“I like people on bikes rather than in cars. But this goes beyond ‘not in my backyard,’ ” Kolin said. “This thing is a monstrosity. It doesn’t belong in anybody’s backyard.”

Until work crews arrived Tuesday, Kolin said, nobody on the block knew the station was planned. Kolin said he contacted Cappleman’s office to lodge a complaint but was told the matter was out of their hands.

“His people were kind of, ‘Dude, it’s your problem. We can’t do anything about it,’ ” Kolin said. “We got no notice of the damn thing and we have no idea what thought process these guys went through.”

Officials at the City Department of Transportation were receptive to his concerns, he said. But at this point they seemed focused on getting the bike program up and running and asked him to get back in touch in several weeks, he said.

“I know this city well enough to know nothing is going to happen in three weeks,” Kolin said.

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