Cal-Sag Cycles - Blue Island
Ya Know About the Rodeo Show?!

Stopped in at GoodSpeed Cycles today - the friendly guys over there let us pick up some supplies for tomorrow’s Bike Rodeo! That’s right, CSC will be back in action, popping up once again, this time at the Blue Island Public Library, 2433 York St., on Saturday, August 27 from 10a - 2p.

This fun event puts kids through their paces on a closed course, helping them improve their cycling skills. Don’t have a bike, but still want to have fun? No worries, we are bringing a trailer full of bikes so everyone can join!

The Cal-Sag Cycles crew will be on hand to offer late-summer / back-to-school tune-ups. So if your bike took a beating this summer, or you’re just interested in dusting off that old beater bike in the garage, come on down to the Library from 10a - 2p and we’ll see how we can help.

Active Transportation Alliance will be hosting a bike plan workshop from 10:30 - noon, so it’s really important to get up and at ‘em early tomorrow. Click here to learn more. See you there!

Build a Better Bike Shop

Cal-Sag Cycles started with the opportunity to give kids a bike, teach them how to wrench, and get them riding. But what we set out to prove didn’t stop there.

It’s no secret we’re inspired by Build a Better Block and wanted to bring some vitality back to Uptown - Blue Island’s historic central business district. Uptown is rich with old buildings… some historic, some just, well, old. Which is great for what we wanted to accomplish. As Jane Jacobs famously put it: “New ideas must use old buildings.”

We knew right where to start. This forlorn stretch of Western Avenue:

The building on the left was once an auto dealership, and probably quite handsome in its day. It still boasts huge windows, larger than the aluminum-framed systems used today. Unfortunately, its transom lights were covered when the drop ceiling went in. Around the same time the space was carved into multiple units. The shingled mansard roof was the 1970s backdrop for a splashy sign for a beauty school, which has since moved on, leaving behind this beauty school drop out.

But all was not lost. A scooter shop recently reoccupied the corner unit. The owners are a local family who played a strong role in Uptown’s mid-century boom. And while the market may have left for more suburban pastures, they continued to own these great old buildings, ripe for new ideas, and were eager to help.

It began with a pop-up. Local artists approached the building owners, and last winter two pop-up art galleries were born. One for student artists from the local grade-school district, the other dubbed 12840 Gallery. The owners have told us that the pop-up has been great for attracting potential tenants, and they have already leased one of the vacant spaces. A win for the arts!

When the chance to do Cal-Sag Cycles came our way, we approached the building owner and 12840 Gallery with an idea: can we share this space? An art gallery / bike shop mash-up was born, and we started to imagine our Pop-Up Local Bike Shop (PULBS).

Our goal was to do more than bring people to our shop - we wanted to breathe life back into Western Avenue. And with it, remind the community of what was lost was not forgotten… heck, it wasn’t even lost! It’s right there, in our old buildings, just waiting for us.

We had something on our side: an idea you couldn’t say no to. What Scrooge would turn down a program that gave bikes to at-risk youths, opened its doors to the community for free bike repair, provided access to the arts, AND built a better bike shop, right there in the heart of Uptown. We couldn’t lose! So the bike shop got underway. This is where we started:

And this is where we finished on Day 1:

We were now ready for the kids. They moved in two days later and started setting up bike stands and getting to work

all we had to now was get ready for our Grand, One-Day Only Opening on June 11.

What do the best blocks share? An inviting landscape, a reason to linger, and a place to rest and take it all in. We called a friend that works at a local landscape firm and asked if we could borrow plants for the day. Wow, did they ever say yes! We loaded up with trees, shrubs, roses, perennials, flats of annuals, and even a veggie garden!

And headed, carefully, slowly, down Western Ave:

The results were incredible! Benches, tables and chairs were brought in, bike racks replaced cars on the street

as Western Ave sprouted trees!

We even nabbed a grill to create our own pop-up food cart. What block can’t be better with food!

That lonely, unfriendly stretch at the top of this post had been transformed:

The energy inside matched what we had going outside. Our better block pulled in plenty of folks driving by, eager to see what was going on.

The results don’t lie: Cal-Sag Cycles serviced 90 BIKES! We were open 4 hours, and helped 90 bikes get back on the road. Hundreds of people stopped by, with or without bicycles, to support the kids and check out the art gallery, which was open to the public for the first time. And given a chance, they stuck around, chatted with friends and neighbors, enjoyed a hot dog, sat on a bench or at a cafe table, and just enjoyed the day, right there on Western Avenue. 

From start to finish, this took less than a month to pull off. It wasn’t hard, but it was hard work. For the enthusiasm and good will it brought to Uptown, it was worth every minute, every penny, and every drop of sweat. We hope we’ve inspired a town to think small, think local, think old, and start building better blocks everywhere.

(thanks to J. Aguilar for a bunch of pics, including the one above. Please follow him on tumblr - check out his photo set from our Grand Opening here.)

It’s Good to Have Friends

Cal-Sag Cycles is fortunate to be friends with the Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail, undoubtedly one of the best and most anticipated projects in the Southland. Not only will the Calumet-Sag Trail provide 26 miles of biking goodness along the Cal-Sag, but it helps bring attention to a long neglected resource. It lets communities of character such as Blue Island and its industrial (and industrious!) neighbors showcase what residents have long known: this place matters. Not only that: don’t count us out… we ain’t dead yet.

Change is on its way all around us. We first saw from Openlands the terrific news that MWRD has voted to start keeping Calumet area rivers clean. While we hope this doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of our Creature From the Cal-Sag mascot, we do hope this means more people than ever will head down to Blue Island and launch a boat at Fay’s Point or elsewhere on the Little Calumet River and enjoy some time exploring the southside.

We love getting out and about in the Calumet region with some of our other friends, the Calumet Outdoor Series. This wonderful group of hiking and paddling events brings out the best in the Calumet. Their next event, June 18, is at nearby Beaubien Woods. Anyone want to bike there with us?!

Bike to Work!

Cal-Sag Cycles opens its doors on Saturday, June 11 - the start of Active Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commuter Challenge. Coincidence? Of course not!

Cal-Sag Cycles is here to help Blue Islanders get their bikes back on the road. And what better way to start the summer than by biking to work? We’re all proud that BI is such a great place to get around by bike. Wether you’re doing regular errands, dining out at a fantastic local restaurant, heading to the park, or exploring our historic neighborhoods, a bicycle is the way to get around town!

For the week of June 11-17 Active Trans challenges Chicagoland residents to get to work by bike. It’s easy to do with these helpful how-to tips. The City of Blue Island is doing their part, and for the second year the Community Development Department is sponsoring a Bike to Work Week team. Biking to work is not only fun and healthy, but it’s GREEN - think of all the money you’ll be saving on gas :)

Cal-Sag Cycles is offering two opportunities to get your bike ready for the ride to work:

  • On Friday, June 10 find our team, along with local bike advocates, at the season’s first TGIF picnic. Cal-Sag Cycles will be on hand at 11a to assist in safety checks and offer bicycle maintenance.
  • Come to Cal-Sag Cycles, 12840 Western Ave, on Saturday, June 11 from 10a - 2p for our GRAND OPENING! It will be fun for all ages, and the Cal-Sag Cycles team will be offering FREE bicycle maintenance to all in a festive, block party atmosphere.

Later in the week, the City of Blue Island will be hosting a Bike After Work event at Restaurante Tenochtitlan, 12947 Western Ave., on Thursday, June 16 from 5:30p to 7:30p. The Blue Island Bicycle Club will help lead a leisurely bike tour of Blue Island, leaving Tenochtitlan at 7:30p. You won’t want to miss it!