Pusateri, a former bike messenger turned business owner, opened the bicycle store in 1992 on the 1400 block of South Michigan Avenue. Being in the area for over two decades, Pusateri has not only seen the city as a whole become more bicycle-friendly, but the cyclists themselves are changing as well.
“More people are commuting,” he said. “More people are safety conscious [and] people with cars are more aware of bikes on the road.”
Chris Tescher, a mechanic at Cycle Bike Shop for the past five years, also said the landscape of cycling in the city has changed recently.
“With bikes being a trend, people get in and out of it occasionally,” Tescher said. “It’s definitely in right now.”
There are more than 125,000 daily bike trips in Chicago, according to a study commissioned by the Active Transportation Alliance earlier this year. This is an increase from the last few years and even exceeds the number of cars on some of Chicago’s high-traffic areas. The study also said that commuting to work by bicycle has tripled in the city from 2000 to 2012.
While commuters are one sector of their clientele, Pusateri, who does everything at the store from mechanic work to customer service, said the store’s widely-ranging demographic makes the days interesting.
“It’s all over the board here,” he said. “We have real serious bike racers to ‘I’m just looking to go out and have some fun’ [cyclists].”
Ted Villaire, the director of communications for the Active Transportation Alliance, said he believes this recent bicycle craze has affected shops that cater to it.
“It seems like more bike shops are opening up in recent years in Chicago and more of them are focusing on transportation cycling rather than just recreation cycling,” Villaire said.
While new stores keep emerging, Cycle Bike Shop’s mechanic, Tescher, said customers continue coming to their shop for a reason.
“We’re at the edge of downtown,” he said. “People come here mostly out of convenience. They want what’s close and what they know.”
Villaire said the last year’s introduction of the Divvy system, a bike-sharing business with more than 300 stations across the city, has played a role in the “sizable” increase in riders. He added that shop owners he has spoken to have considered it a positive change for Chicago.
Pusateri agreed with this ideal because he said Divvy brings in people who possibly were not interested in cycling before they tried out the sharing service, then realized owning their own bicycle would be more convenient.
“I think a lot of people that rent a Divvy once or twice realized that if they owned a bike they wouldn’t have to walk two or three blocks to get to a Divvy and then park it two blocks away from where they have to go,” Pusateri said. “Unless you’re a member it can be a real pain.”
Griffin Sims, a 23-year-old cyclist and Near South Side resident, said he enjoys riding his bicycle around the area because it is the quickest way to travel, but noticed there has been a “pushback” from drivers.
“[Drivers are] just jealous because I have a smile on my face,” Sims said. He added that being driving made him tense, but the endorphins he receives from riding his bicycle keeps him relaxed.
Looking ahead, Pusateri and Tescher both said they hope people continue to be interested in cycling and that the city continues to be more bike-friendly.
Villaire said the Active Transportation Alliance hopes that Chicago continues their strides towards bike-friendliness, but also wants to continue to see bicycle shops thrive.
“We would like to see them continue to do well,” Villaire said. “Their existence helps create a new population of people riding bikes.”