Students can get a stipend to learn specialized skills in the bike industry. Credit: Jesseliy Centeno

CHICAGO — Divvy and nonprofit Working Bikes are joining forces to teach Chicagoans how to be bike mechanics.

Eight future mechanics have started a five-week course at Working Bikes, 2434 S. Western Ave., to learn basic bike repair skills, Executive Director Trevor Clarke said. Working Bikes repair manager Xail Hernandez leads the classes, teaching in English and Spanish, Clarke said.

Attendees get a $150 stipend for 10 hours of instruction each week, said Johntuanay Johnson, community affairs manager at Lyft, which operates Divvy.

The program, which has had two groups complete the instruction, is geared toward people facing barriers to employment. Organizers hope to expand bike access on the South and West sides, which are more likely to have “bike shop deserts,” Clarke said.

“Since the pandemic, cycling has been more widely recognized, and there’s been long wait times to get bikes fixed. Every shop has been slammed,” Clarke said. “And not all communities have access to shops, or they might just have informal mechanics. We need more bike mechanics to do this work.”

A student tinkers with bike parts at a Divvy-sponsored class at Working Bikes, 2434 S. Western Ave. Credit: Jesseliy Centeno

Graduates can interview at Divvy, which has hundreds of open positions for field mechanics across its 12,000-bike network in Chicago, Johnson said. Others can get connected to jobs at local bike shops, Clarke said.

New cohorts will start in January and February. People are encouraged to fill out this form in advance to get on the program’s radar and speak with organizers, Clarke said.

“It’s not a master’s degree in mechanics, but it will get people familiar working in a bike shop,” Clarke said. “Even if they don’t, it’s a win just imparting these skills and putting them out in the community.”

The current cohort includes a migrant from Venezuela, among the more than 3,000 shipped to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Clarke said. He hopes the program will give people stable job options and a passion for bikes, which are “a powerful tool to help others,” Clarke said.

“Last time we had a ceremony, where graduates got their diplomas and tools,” Clarke said. “People brought their families.”

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