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Bike repair stations popping up around the suburbs

With more electric vehicles purring along roadways, charging stations are key to widespread acceptance by skeptical motorists. Surprisingly, cyclists are already blessed with free “charging stations” scattered throughout the Chicago area.

Various suburbs and popular trails boast bike repair stations, supplying essential tools to adjust seats, align sloppy derailleurs and eliminate annoying rattles. Air pumps, wheezing “fuel” for tires, come standard.

The bike repair station near the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin provides cyclists a QR code to view simple repair videos.
– Courtesy of Ralph Banasiak

Fix-it stations have appeared regionally since 2014. Laura Rudow, St. Charles Park District superintendent of Parks and Planning, reports one at Pottawatomie Park and one along the Fox River Trail, funded originally with a Kane County Riverboat Grant. The park district has since bought replacements in 2021. A third is planned in Mount St Mary Park.

Elgin’s Sustainability Commission installed two last May along the Fox — Festival Park and Gail Borden Library. Palatine Park District added its fourth station at Towne Square in August. Friends of Cycling Elk Grove funded one in Cook County’s Busse Woods Forest Preserve in September.

Cyclery donates eight

One of the eight bike repair stations donated by George Garner Cyclery to Northbrook and Libertyville.

One of the eight bike repair stations donated by George Garner Cyclery to Northbrook and Libertyville.
– Courtesy of the village of Libertyville

Other suburban stations include one in Wheaton’s downtown streetscape; four installed/maintained by Northbrook Park District; and four installed/maintained by Libertyville Public Works. Assistant City Manager John Duguay notes Wheaton’s amenities include a 20-bike canopy-covered rack and a water bottle filling unit.

George Garner Cyclery funded the eight Northbrook and Libertyville stations, “a great partnership” with all parties involved, per Garner.

“We bought all four stations and donated them to Northbrook Park District. We got great community feedback, so we approached the village of Libertyville with the same offer.”

Jim O’Connell, general manager of all George Garner Cyclery locations, serves on Northbrook’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission.

What’s striking about the stations, seemingly more concentrated than scattered, is the funding sources — individual cyclists, bike clubs, shops, local commissions, park districts, municipalities and forest preserves.

When beloved Arlington Heights Bicycle Club member Jim Shoemaker died in December 2018, individuals from his club, the Mount Prospect Bike Club and the Wheeling Wheelmen donated $3,500 for a memorial bench and repair station at Frontier Park.

Honoring ‘go-to’ mechanic

Members of the Arlington Heights Bicycle Club, Mount Prospect Bicycle Club and the Wheeling Wheelmen gather in 2019 with Jim Shoemaker's family at the dedication of a memorial bench and repair station in his honor.

Members of the Arlington Heights Bicycle Club, Mount Prospect Bicycle Club and the Wheeling Wheelmen gather in 2019 with Jim Shoemaker’s family at the dedication of a memorial bench and repair station in his honor.
– Daily Herald File Photo/2019

“‘Shoe’ was a member for 30 years, ride leader and membership chairman, among other roles,” said Tom Drabant, 2018 club president. “An excellent bike mechanic, master mechanic, he was our club’s go-to person for mechanical issues. It was very appropriate to include a repair station in his honor.”

Clubs have funded installations collaborating with local entities. Kristin Race, FCEG board member, noted close relations between the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) and the club, whose Busse Woods Night Ride raises the bulk of their funding. In turn, FCEG dedicates some ride proceeds toward local bike-friendly projects.

In 2018, Race notes, “FCEG purchased the bike pump and FPCC the fix-it station” near the elk pen.

In September, FCEG donated the second Busse Woods repair station.

Palatine resident Ryan Lewis tightens a loose fitting at the Maple Park bike repair station last spring.

Palatine resident Ryan Lewis tightens a loose fitting at the Maple Park bike repair station last spring.
– Courtesy of Ralph Banasiak

Cooperation between the Bike Palatine Club and Palatine Park District has added four stations near village bike trails since 2019. Both organizations have each purchased two, with the district installing/maintaining all four.

One was included in a playground project, according to Colleen Palmer, assistant superintendent of Recreation.

“It’s called an OSLAD grant through Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It wasn’t just for the bike station, but the entire park and playground,” Palmer said.

Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program is state-funded, providing funding assistance to local government agencies for public parks and open space.

Five soon in Batavia

Joanne Spitz, Batavia Bicycling Commission member since 2010, reports city funding approval for five stations, with spring installation expected. Site owners of station locations will install/maintain them.

Commission member Steve Ericksen recounts “the slow moving train to get to this point.” First, funding was needed, then the commission sought land owner approval to site each station.

“The idea is to locate repair stations at the four bike trail entrances to the city as a welcome to bike-friendly Batavia,” said Ericksen.

In Evanston, three are ordered, per Michael Rivera, interim director of Administrative Services, based on Evanston’s November 2018 Climate Action and Resilience Plan.

“Parking Services started managing EV car chargers about two years ago. Our department manages three parking garages and many surface parking lots,” Rivera said. “We decided to fund three repair stations and install them in our parking garages.”

Rivera expects delivery within three-four weeks and installation by end of 2022.

Bike safety in schools

Nearly 52,000 students in Illinois completed a free Bike Safety Quiz last school year, reports Dave Simmons, executive director at Ride Illinois, statewide nonprofit biking advocacy organization.

The 51,848 students reflected a 15% increase from the prior year, a nearly six-fold jump from 2018, when Ride Illinois launched the BSQ mini-grant program. Besides gaining bike safety knowledge, students completing the quiz earn $2 for participating schools.

Elementary students take the Child Bicyclist quiz, secondary PE students the Adult Bicyclist quiz, and Drivers Ed students the Motorist/Driver Education Quiz.

This program is funded through an Illinois Department of Transportation Injury Prevention grant backed by federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian safety campaigns.

Illinois set a 50,000 goal after 45,000 quiz completions in 2020-21.

Surpassing that goal, Simmons remarks, “Ride Illinois is pleased with increased participation in our mini-grant program. We continue to seek additional ways to get this important resource to more K-12 students in Illinois.”

Derek Eckman, eighth-grade PE teacher at Palatine’s Winston Campus Junior High, and another teacher, initially registered 480 students in fall 2021.

Eckman notes, “We used the quiz as part of our health and personal safety unit.”

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at [email protected]

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