August 2, 2013
Don't like trying to drive in traffic through the downtown areas? Use some pedal power and spend the day exploring downtown on a bike. If you don't have room to store a bike or funds to buy the fancy one you want, consider renting one from a CoGo station. There's quite a few stations around town and during a recent video shoot we visited four of them: Bicentennial Park, Schiller/Stewart, Neil/Buttles and Second Ave./N. High St.
1.First off, locate a station. There's a phone app, Spotcycle, that tells you where stations are, how many bikes are available and how many spaces are open to return a bike to. There's also a website, http://cogobikeshare.com/stations, which tells you the locations and availability of bikes and spaces, too.
2. Take your credit card and bike helmet with you to the station. Kiosks accept Mastercard, Visa and American Express credit and debit cards. The cost is $6 for a 24-hour rental period, but bikes must be returned to a station every 30 minutes. If not, you will be charded $3 for each half hour over the 30 minute period, with a maximum fee of $75 per day. A yearly membership costs $75. Rentals also include a $1 refundable deposit. So, if you rent a bike and do not return it until an hour after you checked it out, you will be charged a total of $10, with the $1 deposit later refunded to you. If you don't return the bike after your 24-hour period is up, then you'll be charged $1,200. (If you have trouble finding a space to return your bike at a station, just call the number on your receipt (1-855-877-CoGo) and they will credit you with more time.)
3. Click on the "Rent a bike" square on the kiosk screen and swipe your credit card and follow the prompts.
4. Once you slide your card and follow the prompts, you will be given a receipt with a code on it (the same code is on the kiosk screen) and you take it to unlock a bike of your choice at the station by typing in your code on the keypad. You get 5 minutes to punch in a code and unlock your bike. To release the bike, wait until the green light with a checkmark near the keypad goes off, then lift up on the seat and pull out the bike. (Don't try to pull it straight out; it won't work. You have to lift it up at the seat and then pull it out.)
5. Head to your destination or take a leisurely ride, but be sure to return your bike to a CoGo station within your 30-minute period. The check out time is listed on your receipt. Each station has a map showing the location of stations around town. The southernmost one is located to the west of Schiller Park in German Village and the northernmost one is located at Second Avenue and N. High St. next to White Castle. (More are planned for the future, but have not been installed yet.)
6. When you return your bike, you have to push a little bit to get the triangle on the front of the bike into the lock. Be sure the light on the keypad area turns green before you take off. Once you've returned a bike, you're ready to get a new one. To check out another bike, click on the "get bike" square on the kiosk, swipe your credit card again, follow the prompts, get another code and take out the bike like you did in step 4.
The bikes are easy to ride, have guards on the tires and chains so they don't snag your clothes, and come with flashing lights. However, riders are reminded to wear helmets, follow traffic laws and to be a defensive rider. Don't have a helmet? They list a number of retailers in the downtown/Short North area who sell helmets on the large map at the stations.