West Town Wins $28K Grant for Trail Ambassadors From Better Bike Share Partnership

Students from a West Town Bikes after-school program. Photo: West Town Bikes
Students from a West Town Bikes after-school program. Photo: West Town Bikes

The Better Bike Share Partnership, funded by the JPB Foundation, was created in 2014 as an effort to make bike-share more equitable in the wake of surveys showing bike-share membership tends to skew heavily white, male, well educated, and affluent. In 2015, a $75K grant from the partnership to the city of Chicago helped launch the Divvy for Everyone (D4E) initiative, which offers $5 annual memberships to Chicago residents making less than $35,310 a year. Recent surveys show that D4E membership much better reflects Chicago racial and ethnic demographics than standard Divvy membership.

The BBSP recently announced a new round of grants totaling $410,000, including money for bike-share equity programs in Charleston, SC, Detroit, Ithaca, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh, as well as research projects at Philadelphia’s Drexel University and Portland State University, and once again Chicago is a beneficiary. This represents the third round of grant funding for the partnership, administered by the national bike advocacy organization People for Bikes as part of the partnership.

As part of this grant cycle, the Humboldt Park-based education center West Town Bikes is receiving $28,000 to recruit, hire and train 30 youth from neighborhoods bordering The 606 trail to serve as Trail Ambassadors and develop speaking, presentation and leadership skills. The ambassadors will engage in community outreach and education, provide help to trail users, encourage use of the trail and the Divvy system, and provide information about Divvy and the discounted D4E memberships at local events as part of their 10-week program.

West Town did a similar program on a smaller scale in summer 2015, partnering with the Trust for Public Land, which manages the development of the trail, on a program called the 606 Youth Trail Ambassadors, also designed to promote bike use and safety on the path. As part of that initiative six teens who graduated from West Town programs staffed WTB-constructed “fix-it stations” located on and near the trail, teaching cyclists how to use to make minor adjustments and repairs to their bicycles. The group also developed guides to safe, courteous trail use, which they distributed as handouts and via social media.

“We’re very excited to be able to employ young, low-income people of color on the West Side to engage with their community and encourage Divvy use,” said West Town director Alex Wilson in the wake of the BBSP award. “The program will focus on the West Side, promoting the use of bikes for recreation, transportation, and health, and our youth will also earn some wealth.”

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