Spokes(Wo)Man

Scared of traffic ? No bike infrastructure ? Too Far ? Helmet hair ?

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

Yay ! Nobody's in jail or pregnant !

On a lighter note than the last post, and believe me, it took a bloody good cup of tea to get over that piece of utter nicompoopery; check this out;

 Nayla Hale (left), 16, giving someone some serious side-eye, and Khori Wilson, 13, repair newbies to master bike mechanics

Nayla Hale (left), 16, giving someone some serious side-eye, and Khori Wilson, 13, repair newbies to master bike mechanics

On Chicago’s South Side, amongst the poverty, drugs and gangs is Blackstone Bicycle Works; a bike co-op for people who don't know anything about bikes, want a community to connect with, or want a cheap and super-easy mode of transportation.

The co-op differs from a traditional bike shop where'd you drop your bike off and pay someone else to work on it. What sets the co-op apart is knowledge sharing; their "earn-a-bike" program is predominantly for local kids, but anyone can come in with no previous mechanical skills and earn a bike by volunteering 25 hours. The shop operates on donations, and sells kids' bikes for as little as $15 or $20. 

There are maintenance classes for kids, who earn aprons of different colours as their skills progress. The shop gives them a safe space, a sense of security and continuity, and skills they can carry with them throughout their entire life. In the past four or five years, at least eight kids have gone on to fulltime employment in bike shops—either through the co-ops externship program or been hired part time or full time directly by the shops.

"They come into the shop, get help with homework, learn how to build a bike, even race a bike— and perhaps most importantly they have access to adults who treat them with respect and who are invested in their lives. And what we do is hands-on, immersive problem solving. You give kids a task and when they complete it they realize they're capable of doing something right. Other sports don't provide that same vantage point." said Lindsay Knight, youth programming coordinator.

"We have a kid now, Brandon, who started at the shop when he was about 11, and now he's a junior in high school. He's gearing up for college applications. We're enrolling him in a Kaplan test prep course for the ACT. He thinks he wants to study engineering. He's from West Englewood [a neighbourhood known for its gang activity]. But for us, it's less about focusing on a few shining stars and more about the fact that all seven of our seniors graduated high school last year. And all four of our seniors who applied to college last year were accepted. No one's pregnant. No one ended up in jail. Those are wins in the communities we're drawing from."

"I didn’t know anything about bikes going in—my bike had been stolen, so I hadn’t ridden in awhile... [now] my bike gets me where I’m going without having to rely on anyone else, and now I have the power to fix it. I’m never stranded anywhere." Nayla Hale

"I started with fixing flat tires, it took me three years to get my Black Apron. I was the first girl. Some people come in and when I start working on their bike they say, 'Whoa! I didn’t know you were the one who would do it.' It makes me feel special, like a role model.

 My favorite part to work on is the bottom bracket because it’s such a challenge. You loosen it, you take it out, you clean it, you repack it, and then you put it back in. Just know you’re never going to get it right the first time. It’ll be too tight or too loose. My biggest tip is to be patient." Khori Wilson

Idiocy redressed. Achievement unlocked.