End of year donation appeal for West Town Bikes


West Town Bikes hosts women and trans night each Wednesday. Photo by Kim Werst. 

At the end of every year, non-profit organizations make an appeal to be the source of your charitable donations. Giving to these organizations is needed at all times, though, and not just for December holidays. John and I have always highly regarded West Town Bikes on our blog. Briefly, West Town Bikes is a direct-service and community-learning bike shop in Humboldt Park. Lengthily, West Town Bikes and its executive director and founder Alex Wilson played a large part in my advocacy-tinged personal development, and in my transition to live car-free. West Town Bikes has also served me more selfishly: it hosted both Cargo Bike Roll Call block parties; and their tools and volunteers’ expertise helped me repair a bike I stupidly broke*.


Alex Wilson leads a BickerBikes youth group on an excursion.

I asked John to chime in:

West Town Bikes represents the very best aspects of the Chicago bike scene. As a bike education center that’s a terrific resource for people of from all walks of life, it’s one of the most democratic cycling organizations in town. It’s a powerful example of how bicycles can be a tool for positive change, especially in the way its youth programs have helped literally hundreds of underserved young people get on the right track towards leading healthy, productive lives.

Alex Wilson is a true teacher of teachers who has helped get dozens of other people started in the bike education field. He’s also had a major influence on my own life in bicycling. Heck, the last time I broke a frame he gave me a replacement for free and helped me switch over the parts. It’s not an exaggeration to say bicycling in Chicago would not be nearly as far along as it is today without Alex and West Town.

Make a donation online. It’s also tax deductible.

* While still learning how bikes work, I once wiped off the grease from a seat tube. Later on, when I tried to adjust the seat height, I realized the seat post was permanently stuck. A several months long process, during which I manually removed the stuck seatpost, ended with using a reamer to make the seat tube new again.

Can bike shop deserts be eradicated on Chicago’s South Side?


Johnny and John Stallworth at John’s Hardware & Bicycle Shop.

[This piece also runs in Urban Velo magazine.]

Pedaling down Halsted Street into Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, I smell the unmistakable aroma of Harold’s Chicken as I pass an outpost of the South Side chain whose logo features a chef chasing a rooster with a hatchet. After an SUV speeds by me booming hip-hop, I pull up to John’s Hardware & Bicycle Shop, 7350 S. Halsted, and admire the old-fashioned, hand-painted sign, featuring John Stallworth’s smiling, bearded face and his no-nonsense slogan, “If we don’t have it you don’t need it.”

Continue reading Can bike shop deserts be eradicated on Chicago’s South Side?

Bike facilities don’t have to be “the white lanes of gentrification”


The new buffered bike lanes, still under construction, in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

[Update: on Friday 5/11 The Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Jose Lopez provided his organization’s perspective on the Paseo Boricua bike lanes. Click here to read Lopez’s comments.]

Bicycling doesn’t discriminate. It’s good for people of all ethnicities and income levels because it’s a cheap, convenient, healthy way to get around, and a positive activity for youth and families. So it’s a shame that cycling, especially for transportation, is often seen as something that only privileged white people would want to do. And it’s unfortunate when proposals to add bike facilities in low-income communities of color, which would be beneficial to the people who live there, are viewed as something forced on the community by outsiders.

Continue reading Bike facilities don’t have to be “the white lanes of gentrification”

Bike Winter fashion show: Pretty bikes and the clothes were nice, too!

Last night John and I attended the Bike Winter closing party and fashion show, at the Gala Gallery (1000 N Milwaukee Avenue). Al Schorch was hilarious as the emcee, as usual. The event was one of many fundraisers throughout the year for West Town Bikes, a community DIY and learning bike shop in Humboldt Park.


Ian tests the brakes on a Civia Halsted (Minneapolis) cycle truck cargo bike wearing Levi’s 511 Commuter jeans. I was going to buy some that evening after seeing how cool they are and levi.com didn’t have my size! Continue reading Bike Winter fashion show: Pretty bikes and the clothes were nice, too!

Stories from the Grid Chicago Network: After school programs, speed camera legislation


Bike Club racing team from West Town Bikes at the Indian Lakes Cyclocross race, presented by South Chicago Wheelmen. Photo by Michael Young. 

The Grid Chicago Network is a collection of articles from 43 websites, updated twice a day. The Network page always shows a 7 day stretch (right now there’s 73 articles listed). Here’re the most interesting articles I saw today:

And on my personal blog, Steven Can Plan, I take a different look at the future and potential of the bike boulevard on Berteau Avenue, and compare it to “neighborhood greenways” in other cities.

West Town’s women’s programs take the machismo out of mechanics


Fixing brakes at Women and Trans’ Night – all WATN photos courtesy of West Town Bikes

[This piece also appears in Newcity magazine.]

This city’s blessed with five nonprofit bike shops where locals can learn to ride safely and/or turn a wrench, spread across the city from Lakeside Velo Works in South Chicago to the Recyclery in Rogers Park. These centers strive to be inclusive, but when most of the other participants are guys, a female who’s new to cycling or mechanics might feel out of her element. Fortunately, West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park offers a couple of cool programs just for the ladies.

Continue reading West Town’s women’s programs take the machismo out of mechanics