Earn-a-Bike at Blackstone Bicycle Works


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All Photos: Experimentalstation.org

All Photos: Experimentalstation.org

Blackstone Bicycle Works is located in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, IL and really stands out because of their work with kids in the community. With the Earn-a-Bike program, kids ages 9 – 16 will learn the skills needed to build a full bicycle from the ground up. Starting with flat repair and working their way up through different courses, students will gain bicycle mobility, the skills needed to maintain a bike, and confidence.

After 25 hours in the shop, the kids are allowed to pick a bike from Blackstone Bicycle Works refurbished section of the store along with a new helmet and lock. This bike will be theirs to maintain and provides them with an environmentally friendly mode of transportation. While building bikes, the kids will also be building the self esteem they need most in their life. They’ll be taught the proper way to conduct themselves in a busy bike shop and future job skills.


In 2011, the Earn-a-Bike program implemented an apron system. With 5 levels of expertise from “Rookie” to “Master,” the student will earn a different colored work apron at every new level. Similar to Martial Arts, the black apron is the highest level and can help assist customers. More importantly, those who reach the purple or black level are selected for paid internships and paid apprentice positions.

Blackstone Bicycle Works has gone above and beyond! On top of the paid internships for black apron apprentices, they’ve started a college and career readiness track and are helping to provide externships at neighboring bicycle shops. There’s even a Blackstone Youth Racing Club that teaches practicing teamwork, good sportsmanship, promoting fitness, and living a healthy lifestyle.

Where’s your favorite bike shop? Any cool programs you know about? Let us know in the comments!


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