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Questions Raised After City Workers Get Discount On Bike-Share Program

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some questions being raised over a benefit provided to some people using the city's popular new bike-rental program.

Divvy is a tax-payer subsidized program which, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine found, is offering discounts to only certain taxpayers.

And they are the ones who are already collecting a salary from our tax dollars: City of Chicago employees.

The workers received an email offering a special deal on Divvy bike annual memberships.

It's not available to other taxpayers.

The Divvy bike station on Daley Plaza is a busy place each morning, with many city workers parking bikes here before reporting to work across the street.

"I love it," said one worker. "It's easy, convenient. There's a lot of places with docks where you can pick one up or drop it off."

It's also cheaper for them than for most of the rest of us.

An email, dated July 12, addressed to City of Chicago staff, offered annual memberships "on sale to the general public for $75 a year … to City employees for only $55."

Rachel Cotter-Davis, a city consultant, takes advantage of the discount, and she hopes it continues.

However, there are those who question why the innovative bike-sharing program, where more than $22 million city and federal tax dollars supplement what the riders actually pay, should be offered at a special rate to only some taxpayers.

Andy Shaw, head of the Better Government Association said: "You don't get it. I don't get it. The average Joe on the street doesn't get it. Tourists don't get it. Why should city workers get it?"

Because, the email goes on to say, it's "part of the city's commitment to promoting health and wellness."

It could, in theory, save the city money in health care costs, somewhere down the road. Although there is no guarantee.

"City workers don't deserve a discount that isn't discussed publicly in the council by alderman so we can weigh the pros and cons," said Shaw

Ald. Bob Fioretti agrees, saying "to my knowledge, no alderman was consulted about this."

Fioretti rode his own bike on Wednesday, and he supports the program.

However he is worried about the perception of the city worker discount.

"It should have been an open and transparent debate, and it brings down the integrity of this whole program by just giving it to the privileged few and not others," Fioretti said.

A spokesman for the city contractor running the program says the "employee discounts are similar to other corporate and community partnerships" and were "approved by the city's board of ethics."

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