Bike swap promotes cycling culture

By Kevin Busch

Blackstone Bicycle Works held its first South Side Bicycle Swap on Saturday, an event organized with the hope of bringing together Hyde Park residents and the broader South Side community to meet and trade bicycles and bicycle parts at the organization’s Woodlawn location.

The event was the latest in a series of community-building efforts by the shop, according to Patrick Klemz, development coordinator for the shop, who hoped the event would raise awareness of their after-school program, which allows children to learn to maintain and repair bicycles.

The shop has suffered from low patronage recently, largely, Klemz said, because of its location on South Blackstone Avenue and East 61st Street—a point south of the Midway, past which many students are reluctant to venture. Aside from promoting the store and its community efforts, Klemz hoped the event would encourage bike culture in a part of the city where he feels it is lacking.

Unlike in neighborhoods on the North Side, there is “not a general presence of bike culture in Woodlawn,” Klemz said.

Except for the U of C’s Velo Club, there are scant opportunities for locals to organize with fellow cyclists. He listed a number of symptoms that indicate the South Side’s ailing attention to the needs of cyclists.

“Just look at that,” he said as he pointed to the street outside of the shop. Broken, uneven, and lacking a bike lane, the road was not much different from many South Side streets, he said.

Despite a low turnout at Saturday’s event, Klemz thought that the bike swap was a good start towards improving bike culture on the South Side. Those who did attend—many of them University students—browsed loose bicycle seats, gears, and a variety of miscellaneous parts that were for sale. The turnout was large enough to keep Klemz and other shop staff members busy repairing bikes and chatting with customers.

“We’re just trying to get something going here,” Klemz said, emphasizing that efforts to promote and develop a bike culture on the South Side through events like Saturday’s swap would continue. He plans to hold a similar event in April.