Divvy GM Elliot Greenberg resigns, headed to new gig at Lyft

on Nov30

30 November 2017 | 9:29 pm

The eponymous sky-blue bikes that descended on Chicago in the summer of 2013 have become a key part of the city’s public transit system.

And no one knows Divvy better than Elliot Greenberger. The 35-year-old Lincoln Park resident has been at the helm of West Town-based Divvy since April 2013 and helped launch the system on June 28, 2013.

Divvy riders — who have yearly memberships or rent bikes by the day — collectively took more than 13.6 million trips and peddled 27.8 million miles as of Wednesday.

Greenberger has worn several hats at Divvy, from director of marketing to deputy general manager and his latest role as GM. The bike-share program is operated by Motivate in partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Greenberger announced this week on LinkedIn that he would be leaving Divvy at the end of the year to join Lyft, where he will oversee marketing and operations for Orange County, California, and other areas surrounding Los Angeles.

“Launching and leading Divvy for the past four and a half years has been such an incredible experience. Truly have had the best and most challenging months of my professional life, but there’s never been a day I didn’t have fun making our mark on Chicago,” Greenberger told his LinkedIn network.

He thanked the Divvy team for its hard work and passion, and the city and the Department of Transportation for its partnership.

Greenberger also thanked everyone who has supported bike share in Chicago “in any number of ways” and promised, “No matter where I go, I’ll always have Divvy in my heart. Ride on.”

Mary Wilson, a Divvy yearly member, takes Divvy bike out of a dock at Daley Center.

Mary Wilson, a Divvy yearly member, takes Divvy bike out of a dock at Daley Center. | Alisa Hauser/For the Sun-Times

Divvy hasn’t named Greenberger’s successor.

The Sun-Times caught up with Greenberger to learn more about his time at the helm of the city’s first bike-sharing system, which employs between 70 and 130 workers who maintain a fleet of more than 6,000 bikes at 582 docking stations.

Q: What have been some of the biggest successes, pleasant surprises and unexpected challenges from operating Divvy?

A: I’ve loved watching how our riders have taken to the system, and hearing all the ways they use Divvy to get around. It’s been surprising just how much of a positive impact Divvy has had in our riders’ lives. It was amazing when we passed the 10 million trip mark earlier this year, but what’s even more amazing is thinking about what those trips have made possible in people’s lives.

It’s not easy rolling out a new transportation system across the city. We’ve run into any number of challenges, from operating through two back-to-back polar vortices in Winter 2014 to supply-chain issues. No matter what we’ve faced, our goal has always been to serve our riders so well that they don’t even think about all the work that goes on behind the scenes. That said, we launched Divvy at an opportune time when the mayor was leading the push to add more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city. That definitely helped set the stage for Divvy’s growth in the first few years.

One of my favorite stories is from a family that was visiting Chicago for the weekend. When they got home, the daughter painted a picture of their family trip. In that painting, the family was standing next to a Divvy bike with the famous Chicago skyline reflected in the Bean behind them. They had used Divvy to get around that weekend, and Divvy had become synonymous with these iconic Chicago images. My hope is that Divvy is part of the fabric of the city in the same way the Bean is, and that it continues to be a meaningful part of how people experience Chicago.

Q: Did you expect Chicago to embrace Divvy as enthusiastically as it did?

A: When I joined the launch team in April 2013 [from Groupon], there was no such thing as “Divvy.” The job description was for “Chicago bike share.” I hadn’t seen bike share in the states at that time, and I remember thinking, “This is either going to be a very small, precious program, or it’s going to be something big and transformational.” I knew we were onto something when “Divvy” immediately became a verb and when people dressed as Divvy bikes for that first Halloween. I think the fact that it took off as it did speaks to Chicagoans’ readiness for innovation.

Q: Why is bike sharing important in Chicago?

A: In a world-class city like Chicago, people should be able to get around easily. They should be able to get to all the places they need to and want to be.

The beauty of bike share is that it’s flexible. You can get a bike when you want and return it just as easily. It’s really about having options that are fast, convenient, and accessible.

And it happens to be healthy and good for the environment — and fun! Adults don’t always remember just how fun it is to ride a bike. If you can smile while you get around Chicago, that’s a pretty wonderful thing.

Q: How often are Divvy bikes lost or stolen and result in a $1,200 fine?

A: Chicagoans have treated these bikes very well. Because they’re heavy (43 pounds!), they’re easily identifiable, and many of the components are proprietary, you don’t have a huge incentive to keep it as your own. For those reasons, over 90 percent of bikes that go missing have come back.

Q: What is your personal favorite Divvy station to use and why?

A: I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Divvy station at Daley Center Plaza because it was the first station we deployed back in 2013. That’s where it all began. That station is still there today, although it has moved to various corners of the Plaza over the years. Today, it’s comfortably located on the northeast side of the Plaza, and is one of our busiest destination stations on weekday mornings.

A Divvy bike station at Daley Plaza

The first Divvy bike station was placed in Daley Plaza. | Alisa Hauser/For the Sun-Times

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