Pedal Empowerment: Teens Learn Basic Bike Repair Skills

Blackstone Bicycle Works is putting low-income youth to work rehabbing donated bicycles. Through free training programs, kids and teens from Chicago’s South Side learn bike repair and entrepreneurial skills.


Blackstone staff member Chris Willard teaches basic bike repair.

Photo By Dan Peterman

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Endless Inventory: Pedals for Progress estimates that every year Americans throw out millions of old bikes and buy about 22 million new ones. Many more occupy basements, garages and sheds.

A New Spin: Blackstone Bicycle Works is one of many nonprofit organizations throughout the United States that welcome donated bicycles and parts. In addition to keeping old bikes out of landfills, the groups help increase the availability of inexpensive, well-maintained bikes, benefiting both local communities and the environment.

Wheel Deals: At Blackstone, Chicago bikers find everything they need to keep rolling. They can buy a refurbished bike or a new one that particularly suits urban commuters, or they can choose from safety accessories such as locks, lights, helmets and pumps.

Reasonable Repairs: Highly trained youth provide quality, low-cost repair and tune-up services. Tinkerers can browse through the program’s used parts inventory.

Earn-A-Bike: Hundreds of youngsters have earned wheels of their own. The Youth Apprentice program provides paid advanced training in bike repair, customer service and shop operations. All participants gain practical skills and self-esteem that help them succeed in school and the job market. And after 25 hours of training, they receive a refurbished bike with a new lock and helmet.

Learn More: Blackstone Bicycle Works

Other bike groups:

■ St. Louis Bicycle Works, St. Louis

■ Free Ride Recycle-a-Bike, Pittsburgh

■ Recycle-a-Bike, Providence, Rhode Island

■ Recycle-A-Bicycle, New York City

■ Bike Recycle Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

■ Recycle-A-Bike, Buffalo, New York