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Bike mechanics lessons and community building at Equiticity’s BikeForce program in North Lawndale

Streetsblog recently sat in on the course to see what it’s like.

Instructor Martin Tabb teaches BikeForce students. Photo: Cameron Bolton

This post is sponsored by Boulevard Bikes.

Equiticity’s BikeForce mechanics program, focusing on new electric transportation technologies, for youths who live in or near Chicago's North Lawndale community, started up again on September 19. Equiticity is a North Lawndale-based nonprofit promoting equitable sustainable transportation.

Taught at a space at 3611 W. Cermak Rd., BikeForce classes run Tuesday through Friday after school for two 12-week sessions in the fall and winter, with a six-week course next summer. Upon completing the program, participants will receive a $1,100 stipend and a non-electric bicycle.

"The BikeForce program... is centered around electrification and teaching participants about electric bikes, electric scooters, essentially [how to] have a battery work, while also teaching them the mechanics of a bike," Remel Terry, director of programs at Equiticity, told Streetsblog earlier this month. “So showing them how to disassemble and reassemble bikes so that they have [skills] that are employable after they finish the program." She said electric vehicles is where the bike industry is going, because many U.S. residents prefer e-bikes since they're easy to ride, and offer the ability to quickly cover long distances.

Streetsblog recently sat in on the course to see what it’s like. BikeForce is led by Equiticity program director Miguel Rodriguez and program instructor Martin Tabb. Both are relative newcomers to the organization. Rodriguez said that while he has only been working for the program for a couple of weeks, he sees it as a great opportunity.

Miguel Rodriguez gives a presentation at BikeForce. Photo: Cameron Bolton

“I spent all my high school years riding my bike as my main form of transportation and then when I became a parent, I stopped riding my bike all around, bought a car, and started getting around in a car," Rodriguez told Streetsblog. "My kid is six years old now and I taught her how to ride a bike this past weekend. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with biking."

After everyone signed in, the program started with a community building exercise where people had to say their name, how they were doing on a scale of one to ten, and what they would be famous for if they went viral on TikTok. After that, they spent the rest of the class period working on getting ready for their first bike ride. Towards the middle of the program there was a snack break and towards the end, the students broke out into groups to label the parts of the bike with sticky notes.

A bike labeled with sticky notes during the class. Photo: Cameron Bolton

Students told Streetsblog they learned about the program in various ways, such as from their therapist or through an email. Asked about the benefits of the program, one person said that the instruction was helping with his ability to retain information.

Tabb asked the youth what the ideal outcome of the program would be for them. Among the answers given were learning something new, starting businesses, proving to themselves they could start and finish something, adding motors to their bike, and the health benefits that come with cycling.

"My goal is I want to help you all fulfill your goals," Tabb responded. "Use this as a stepping stone for something in the future. I know all of you, but most of you all are still in high school or aren’t 18 yet, but there will be a time when you will need some skills.”

Youth from North Lawndale and nearby communities can sign up for BikeForce here.

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