Chicago’s Blackstone Bicycle Works

Background Reading


Lindsay Knight at the Blackstone Bicycle Works, in Chicago.(Photo by David Johnson)

Lindsay Knight at the Blackstone Bicycle Works, in Chicago.(Photo by David Johnson)


Bike Co-ops are on the rise in cities across the country. Unlike the groups that primarily do lobbying work, these kinds of groups are in fact teaching kids about the work-a-day world from the inside out. The lessons they are learning will transcend the mundane world of bicycling to help them discover new fields of endeavor in life.

It’s a good thing!

There is one problem however that was once again brought into the headlines, these places are not necessarily sustainable.

DreamBikes in Milwaukee has a ‘sugar daddy‘. And so long as the Trek Foundation is around they are ‘golden‘. Bikes-n-Roses was not quite so lucky.

So two things have to be asked:

  • Why aren’t businesses like this capable of making enough money to carry on without having to turn to the government for handouts?
  • How are microbreweries able to become not only sustainable but grow and thrive?

Both of these types of places attract hard core bicyclists. Both are generally in not so great neighborhoods at the outset. And yet one thrives and the other does not. Why?

The simple answer is that bicyclists are more fond of beer than they are of seeing cycling grow from grassroots efforts. Why is that? Why would we not be willing to sacrifice our inebriation for a bit of sobriety?

Perhaps the key is for these two efforts to somehow join hands. Seriously. Why not have a bicycle co-op be part of a microbrewery? The co-op is in the room next door. The patrons drop off their bikes for service and then go get drunk. Afterwards they pick up their bikes and walk them home. Notice we are not advocating that a drunk cyclist pedal their way home. We already have enough of that silliness.

As the kids graduate from high school and go on to college they could have real jobs in the pubs during the summers. Why in fact do these same kids not learn more than how to repair old bikes, but also how to own and grow and real business?

If you stop and think about it, the only people willing to actually show inner city youth how to own and run a business are the ‘dope dealers‘. It’s time to educate our youth to a bit more sustainable line of business. This way when the government money runs out or falls short for a season or two the co-op does not have to close its doors.

Just a thought.