James W. Ozog is a lawyer on the move.
After leaving Wiedner & McAuliffe Ltd. in January to launch a Chicago office for the Buffalo, N.Y.-based litigation defense firm Goldberg, Segalla, he found himself in another part of the Loop, a bit farther from the courthouses.
From his firm’s office at 311 S. Wacker Drive, it’s a 15-minute walk to the Daley Center. But on a bike he can pick up at Franklin Street and Jackson Boulevard and drop off at Daley Plaza, Ozog cut that time in half.
“I get such a kick out of doing this Divvy stuff,” he said. “I’m just flabbergasted at what a great mode it is.”
About a month ago, Ozog received his annual membership key for the Divvy bike-share system, giving him access to a few thousand bright blue bikes at about 300 stations scattered across the city.
He’s now one of a growing number of attorneys who are using Divvy to get between the train, the office, the gym and court.
The annual membership, with a $75 up-front payment, allows users to obtain a bike at any dock and return it to an open space at any other dock. There’s no additional cost for any rides that last less than 30 minutes, and some law firms have started subsidizing employees’ cost of membership.
At 61 years old, Ozog considers himself a recreational bike rider in his free time — not a competitive cyclist. He said he’s found it easy to navigate the Loop’s streets.
“If somebody’s used to riding in city traffic or dedicated bike lanes, it’s really a good way to get around,” he said. “It’s a plus for people like lawyers who have to be in federal and state court.”
Both the Daley Center and the Dirksen Federal Courthouse sit along Dearborn Street and its barrier-protected northbound and southbound bike lanes, which are separated from car traffic and have their own dedicated traffic lights.
Ozog said the bikes are supplementing or replacing the other ways to navigate the busy Loop.
“What was a healthy walk has become a very convenient bike ride,” he said.
He also noted how quickly cab fares can add up.
“I’m going to make up this $75 in two weeks or less,” Ozog said. “And I feel like I already have.”
Other attorneys were some of Divvy’s earliest members.
James M. Freeman is a partner at Freeman, Kevenides Law Firm, a personal-injury firm that represents cyclists and pedestrians. He’s an avid cyclist who blogs about biking on city streets.
Freeman had reviewed other cities’ bike-share systems before former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration first announced plans to launch one in Chicago.
“For me, it’s in my blood,” Freeman said. “When Chicago actually got a bike share, I was stoked and chomping at the bit.”
Membership opened a year ago, and Freeman was among the system’s first to sign up — he’s got a limited-edition black founding member key to show for it.
Freeman said he uses Divvy to avoid the Loop’s steep parking costs. He’ll drive his car to the gym in the West Loop — where parking is free — and take a bike to and from the office.
Because the custom-made bikes are built for commuters, they feature guards over the chain and fenders to prevent water or dirt from slinging off the tires when riding, Freeman said. With so few exposed parts, it makes riding in business attire possible.
“I think the Divvy bikes are perfect for that,” Freeman said. “You don’t even have to wrap up your pants leg.”
The appeal of the system is simple, he said.
“More than anything, it’s efficient, it’s cheap. There’s no faster way to do it than on a bicycle,” he said.
Beyond individuals, entire law firms are hopping on the bike-share bandwagon.
Divvy currently lists three law firms as corporate partners — Husch, Blackwell LLP; McDonnell, Boehnen, Hulbert & Berghoff LLP; and Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen P.C. — which subsidize the cost of their employees’ memberships.
Hallie J. Miller Fahey, chief operating officer and general counsel at Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen, said encouraging Divvy membership made sense for a firm that practices in areas of affordable housing and development.
“This is in keeping with our mission.” she said.
“The thought was, we’re in the West Loop, and people are taking cabs back and forth from places,” Fahey said. “We participated at a corporate level so our employees could have some stake in the game. We have had quite a few people who’ve joined.”
Marcus J. Thymian, managing partner at MBHB, said the intellectual property firm’s employees have been receptive to their discounted membership.
By the time MBHB became a Divvy corporate member in August, many of its approximately 190 employees were already members — Thymian included.
“We’re in the order of about 5 percent who signed up through our corporate membership and about 10 percent outside of our membership,” Thymian said. “I’m expecting when their first-year memberships expire, we’ll get more.”