Karlla Guirola grew up in El Salvador during the war. Alex Raynor was raised in Houston. Bryce Polk is 6 years old.
Widely diverse upbringings that nevertheless brought the three together in two important ways.
First, it put them in an elite group: the 6% of Americans who cannot ride a bike. OK, when Raynor was growing up in Texas, she could ride, she says, but couldn’t turn or brake, two skills that complicate bike riding in their absence.
And second, the three comprised the entire class of attendees who showed up at 6 p.m. a few Thursdays back for a Chicago Department of Transportation “Learn to Ride” free bicycling class for adults. (Bryce, being 6, would seem to be too young to qualify; but in that marvelously adaptive quality that city programs sometimes display, nobody seemed to notice or care, and I certainly wasn’t about to point it out.)
I can ride a bike, but I was there because, with all the city of Chicago has to do — combat crime, filter water, wrangle statues and more — that it also teaches residents to ride bikes, for free, well, that seemed charming in a 1930s, WPA, summer camp kind of way.
“Biking is good for our bodies and a cheap, fast way to get around,” said Emme Williams, one of five instructors at the class, known as SAFE (Streets Are For Everyone) ambassadors.
A short section of West Fedinand Street in East Garfield Park was closed off with orange cones, and the pedals removed from three bikes so the beginners could practice scooting forward.