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Monthly Archives: March 2012
Interview at Blackstone Bicycle Works
The website for Blackstone Bicycle Works describes it as a youth education program of the Experimental Station but as I talked to people in the cycling community and watched the kids and the customers in the space, it seemed like much more. There was a quiet buzz of activity in every corner. People seemed comfortable. Like being at home.
Aaron Swanton is Youth Program Manager. Chris Willard is Shop Operations Manager. They both work with the kids, showing them how to repair the bikes and guiding them as the kids try their hand at making repairs themselves. They have an amazing connection with the youth that come there.
FOB: What is Blackstone Bicycle Works?
AARON: We first opened in 1994 but a fire gutted the place in 2001. It was a mess and we moved to a temporary space. It was completely rebuilt and we re-opened in 2006. Our mission is youth and child education, teaching them mechanical, academic, life, and business skills. We try to build a cooperative spirit where they learn how to work together, to help each other. They’re able to earn a bicycle by accumulating a certain number of hours and during the summer there are internships they can participate in.
Great presentation last night by author Greg Borzo. Surprised to find out just how deep Chicago’s roots are in cycling lore. Thanks for the book and poster raffle too, Greg!
Watch out for more cycling stories to be posted here!
Interview with Cyclist Michael Scott
I’ve known this family as a cycling family for a long time. In fact, I did a double take the first time I saw Michael driving a car. “Michael, I didn’t know you knew how to drive. I didn’t even know you owned a car!”
FOB: How did you start riding?
MICHAEL: I learned to ride a bike at five years old in Murray (Nichols) Park. I biked for fun around the neighborhood. In Boy Scouts I had a Master Scout who was a touring cyclist and he took us riding often. One year we biked up and back to summer camp in Michigan. The trip was four days up and three days back. From then on I traveled everywhere by bike. After high school graduation, I spent five months biking Europe and in college, my bike was my only transportation. Now I bike to and from work each day, a fifteen-mile round trip.
Interview with the Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago
I’d been trying to contact the Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago to no avail when into Blackstone Bicycle Works walks the man in the photo with his Major Taylor shirt on. It was magic. There are hundreds of cycling clubs across the area but this one, named for the famous African-American cyclist, operates primarily on the south side of Chicago. I talked with the club’s president, Ed Dixon, about its history and philosophy.
FOB: Tell me about the start of the Club?
ED: Cycling (in Chicago) is as racially segregated as the city. I was approached by Keith Holt who was then working for the Chicago Bicycle Federation (now the Active Transportation Alliance), to form a club on the south side. So in October 2007, with twelve charter members, we began the Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago (MTC3). Our mission is threefold: 1) to create more opportunities to cycle, 2) to advocate for more cycling on the south side including improved infrastructure, and 3) to get more young people involved in cycling. We want young people to see the future of cycling as recreation, sport, and a professional career.
There are now twenty-five members with seventy-five others who ride with us but are not currently members. During the riding season, there are about four to five rides a week. They include many different kinds of rides: along the lakefront from 67th St. to Hollywood, from Chicago to Michigan City or easier rides known as the “ice cream” rides which are short and geared towards beginners. The rides are designed for varying abilities and varying scenery. There are also overnight rides where we take the train to a city like St. Louis and then bike the Lewis & Clark Trail.
Interview with Betty the Cruiser
Betty is a cyclist I met at Blackstone Bicycle Works (you’ll hear about them in one of my next posts). She was waiting for work to be completed on her bike at the time I talked to her. I think she was also taking a little rest from her biking too. I talked to her about her cycling experience.
FOB: How long have you been cycling?
BETTY: All my life.
FOB: Why do you cycle and what do you think about cycling on the south side?
BETTY: I’m a cruiser, I guess. I use my bike for transportation, to get from one place to another. I do my shopping. I use it for recreation. I’m a life-time South sider so I’ve cycled a lot on the south side. I guess bicycle safety is a big issue. Just staying safe on the road.
Interview with John Greenfield
John Greenfield is co-editor of the blog Grid Chicago along with urban planner Steven Vance. He and Steven authored separate blogs for many years. I sat down with him to talk about cycling in Chicago.
FOB: Why did you start Grid Chicago?
JOHN: Steven and I were doing separate blogs. I was doing a daily blog about transportation – walking, biking, transit. Really focused on sustainable transportation. The blog still exists at votewithyourfeetchicago.blogspot.com. Steve was doing his blogging at stevencanplan.com about urban planning issues. We both wanted to do something bigger, something similar to Streets Blog out of New York but it was too expensive. Dave Glowacz, who introduced us, suggested we start our own which we did in June 2011. It combines our interests in sustainable transportation and urban planning issues.
FOB: How did you begin cycling?
JOHN: I’ve been riding since childhood. I was a bike messenger throughout my college years, work that I continued after college. Continue reading