LaRonda Jones tried to fix her own Schwinn mountain bike so she could get to work.
“I realized I couldn’t,” she said. “He just needs a little love.”
Wes Thorn and Jeff Okamura worked on Jones’s bike and several others on Saturday at the first of six repair shops called the “Ken Parr Build a Bike” program organized by Take Bike the Streets, a non-profit volunteer transportation advocacy group. non-profit based in Gary.
Parr, who died in 2016, was an original member of Access Miller. A Gary and Portage science teacher and cycling enthusiast, he helped start the “Build a Bike” as a pop-up shop at Miller Beach Farmers Market in 2015.
Workshops continue from 10 a.m. to noon on June 25, July 9, July 23, August 13 and August 27 at 301 S. Lake St. Workshops are open to everyone, but children under 5 must be accompanied by a ‘an adult.
Jones said she lives and works in Miller, so biking to her Lake Street office makes sense.
“It’s a good program. I want to be able to tell people about it, so I have to experience it,” she said.
Organizer Jessica Renslow said Take Bike the Streets, founded in 2015 by Access Miller, has taught and helped hundreds of people maintain their bikes and adopt safe riding practices.
“I’m so glad we were able to do this,” said volunteer Jennie Rudderham, who said the group also received funding from Partners for Clean Air in 2017.
She said electric and manual bicycles have been purchased for disabled cyclists. The bikes are housed at the Indiana Dunes National Park Douglas Center on Lake Street.
The Adams siblings – Amy, 14, Andre, 16, and Angela, 18 – received used bikes.
“I will go everywhere with it. I’m tired of walking,” Amy Adams said.
Thorn, from Portage, a millwright with US Steel, said he had been cycling since he was about 8 years old when his father brought home a dented bike he found.
“I fixed it and fell in love,” he said. Thorn raced BMX bikes for a few years and now enjoys riding the area bike paths.
Thorn worked on a slightly rusty bike, doused its gears with oil and changed an inner tube in the tire.
Renslow said the goal of Take Bike the Streets is for people of all ages to learn bicycle repair and safety.
She said about 19% of Gary residents rely on public transportation. The initiative originally grew out of a Miller Spotlight program after volunteers learned that Gary didn’t have a bike shop.
Take Bike the Streets won the 2018 State Partners for Clean Air Annual Bicycling Actions Award and the 2019 American Planning Award for Best Hoosier Grassroots Initiative.
The effort is co-sponsored by Trailblazers Bike Barn in Hobart, the Revolution Church-Gary and the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District.
The group needs sponsors this year. For information, visit: takebikethestreets.org
Carole Carlson is a freelance journalist for the Post-Tribune.