A Guide to Chicago’s Woman- and POC-owned Bike Shops

Uptown Bikes staff, including owner Maria Barnes, far right, photographed last year. Photo: Facebook
Uptown Bikes staff, including owner Maria Barnes, far right, photographed last year. Photo: Facebook

Chicago Tribune transportation reporter Mary Wisniewski (a real-deal multimodal commuter herself) recently took a look at why Chicago’s cycling gender gap continues to persist. A full 70 percent of Chicagoans who bike to work are male, according to the 2017 U.S. Census American Community Survey. Among the female cyclists Wisniewski interviewed was Streetsblog Chicago reporter Lynda Lopez, who said that both gender and race can be factors in cyclists — especially women of color — not feeling completely comfortable in bike shops and participating in the bike scene in general.

Bike shops tend to be run by white men, and can be a bit intimidating, said Lynda Lopez, 27, of Little Village, who writes part-time for the “Streetsblog” news site.

“I rarely feel that I’m not being looked down upon,” said Lopez.

Lopez said the bike community in general tends to be white and male-dominated, which can put off women and, particularly, women of color.

“The more you see people like yourself, the more it seems like an accessible activity,” Lopez said.

Lynda elaborated on the subject, including stories of her experiences in shops, in a separate Streetsblog post today.

She’s correct that many, if not most, Chicago bike stores are owned, and largely staffed, by white guys. I myself worked for a few years at an otherwise-terrific cycle shop that had an all-male, mostly white staff, and at times there was a bit of a boys-club atmosphere. (The shop has since hired two female mechanics, which has likely made it an even better place to go for sales or repairs.)

The good news is that our city also has at least 18 cycle shops that are owned or co-owned by women and/or people of color, which folks who don’t fit the stereotypical profile of an urban cyclist might find especially welcoming. (Of course, demographics don’t necessarily predict whether or not you’ll have a good experience at a bike shop.) Some of the South and West side shops are located in the middle of “bike shop deserts” where they’re just about the only option for buying a cycle or getting it fixed, so they’re especially deserving of support.

In addition, all six of Chicago’s nonprofit community bike stores have diverse staff, most run educational programs for at-risk youth, and some offer classes or open shop sessions especially for women and transgender people. Here’s a map and list of all these establishments (click on the map pins for the addresses and phone numbers of the shops), including links to the shop’s websites where available, plus some articles I’ve written about them.

For-profit female- and/or POC-owned shops (red map pins)

Nonprofit community bike shops (purple map pins)

Are there any other female- or POC-owned shops within Chicago that should be on this list? If so, let us know in the comments or email me at jgreenfield[at]streetsblog.org. (Also feel free to mention any such stores you know of in the suburbs.)

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