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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

“Earn-A-Bike” After-School Program Encourages Youth Education

The “Earn-A-Bike” program is a daily after-school program for local youth aged 13–18 who are interested in learning about small businesses and bike maintenance.
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Courtesy of Aren Chynoweth
The “Earn-A-Bike” program aims to teach participants aged 13–18 about bike maintenance.

Blackstone Bicycle Works, a youth education and retail shop, is running an “Earn-A-Bike” program for young people from South Side neighborhoods through June 6. The program, which consists of daily workshops every weekday, aims to teach participants aged 13–18 about bike maintenance. Youth who participate in the program will also earn a bike of their own to work on halfway through the program.

Aren Chynoweth, program manager for Blackstone Bicycle Works, was brought onto the team last May and has made several changes to Blackstone Bicycle’s various programs. He spoke to The Maroon about the importance of the “Earn-A-Bike” program and their other programs for the South Side community.

“With me running the program, [Blackstone Bikes is] no longer a retail shop or service shop. It’s just focused on the kids that are in a bike program, youth education, community outreach. Just really trying to be a good neighbor and provide education and access to everyone around,” Chynoweth said.

The shift to greater community engagement comes after the pandemic negatively affected the retail side of several bike shops within the community. “There’s this very unfortunate situation where a lot of bike shops have it pretty hard,” Chynoweth said. “Everyone decided that, you know, selling things and having that business operation isn’t really a priority anymore.”

Since joining Blackstone Bikes, Chynoweth has focused more resources on youth engagement and education on small business management and bicycle use within the community. “It was really interesting to see these kids in different ages [and] how they interact with each other,” he said. “And you get this wonderful mixing pot in this area where we’re right on the line between Hyde Park and Woodlawn. So you would have different demographics, different economic backgrounds, kids finding commonplace in bikes and being outside. So that was really, really neat to see this summer.”

Blackstone Bicycle Works is a part of Experimental Station, a group of several different organizations and projects supporting food security and youth education, such as the 61st Street Farmers Market and Link Up Illinois.

“I definitely do see more [of a] need for these types of programs. A lot of the youth that I have in here, their schools might not have an art program,” Chynoweth said. “[There] seems to be quite a big gap for that, so it feels really awesome to help provide that.”

Looking forward, Chynoweth said that he wants to continue providing after-school programming and raising awareness for the lack of support for cycling in the South Side community.

“Briefly, I’ve gone through measuring the map to see how much protected bike lane there is. The city as a whole has, I believe, 41 miles potentially [or] like 45 if certain projects are done here shortly. And then everything south of I-55, there’s only roughly about seven or eight miles,” he said.

“And it’s a very residential area. There’s a lot of people that live here, and usually commuting when you live in the South Side is longer than when you live on the North Side. So it’s one of those situations where cycling isn’t used out here because it’s not being supported. I’d really like to be on the forefront, and we’re working on being on the forefront of promoting that activity and that freedom out here.”

Blackstone Bicycle’s website offers sign-ups for the semester-long “Earn-A-Bike” program. Blackstone Bicycle also hosts other programs, such as the After School program on Mondays through Thursdays from 4–7 p.m. and an Open Shop program on Mondays through Thursdays from 1–3 p.m. and on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Naina Purushothaman, Senior News Reporter
Naina is a senior reporter with The Maroon.
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