No other invention, not even the automobile, has so quietly yet efficiently increased people's ability to go places like the bicycle. Portable, light-weight, with no need for refueling, the pedal-powered, ten gear bike is indispensable for many city dwellers, who use it to head to work, for recreation, for exercise, and to meet up with friends and family.
West Town Bikes, a bike shop/workshop space on 2459 Division Street, is an institution that recognizes the importance of the bicycle in the city and works that theme into it's décor, it's business plan, and it's various activities.
The outside of the store has a thin, graceful looking sculpture made from the warped spokes and rims of old bicycles. Over it's entrance is a mural of metal, plastic, and hose, depicting a red, classic looking bicycle in motion.
The store section of the shop, called 'Ciclo Urbano', has normal bicycles, cargo bicycles, locks, helmets, gloves, replacement tires and other bike items for sale. These products all hang from the ceiling or are on shelves far to the sides, allowing commuters to wheel their bicycles into the store and over to the repair shop in the back. Here, bicyclists can get their bikes repaired by employees, interns and volunteers who come from the local community.
West Town Bikes' many classes are also meant to provide opportunities in their community, teaching attendees the ins and out of bicycles mechanics. Different classes focus on different goal and themes; at the Open Shops, anyone with bicycle repair experience can work on their projects in a friendly and open atmosphere. The ongoing 'Build a Bike' class seminar teaches novices how to maintain, take apart, reassemble, and modify bicycles of varying shapes and sizes, while the Woman and Trans Night event on April 2nd provides a space where female and/or trans-gendered individuals can work on bikes with comfort and a lack of patriarchy.
The youth programs that West Town Bikes offers include a Bike Club, internships where teenagers work as assistants to bike program instructors, and events like the Market Bike Sales Program, where students restore donated bikes and sell them at farmer's markets throughout the Cook County area.
Bicycles shorten the distances between the people and places of a city, and can bring different communities and neighborhoods closer together. West Town Bikes strives to strengthen these connection through teaching the skills needed to repair and improve bicycles.