• Julia Thiel
  • Jason Jenkins demonstrates how to change a tire at the Paramount Room’s new bike fix-it station

The new bike fix-it station outside the Paramount Room has been in place for several weeks now, but it’s easy to miss. I bike past it every day on the way to and from work, and I’ve never noticed it. So last night the restaurant/lounge, in collaboration with the Active Transportation Alliance, officially launched the new resource for cyclists with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. I arrived about halfway through, after the ribbon had been cut but in time to watch the ATA’s Jason Jenkins demonstrate how to change a flat tire to a crowd of a couple dozen people.

In addition to a bike stand, the station boasts an air pump and several tools, mostly wrenches and screwdrivers (which are tethered to the stand so they don’t wander off). It’s a simple idea, but effective: as far as I know, there’s nothing else like it in the city. You can work on your own bike at West Town Bikes—but while West Town offers a much wider range of tools and there’s always someone around to help you out, you can only do it during open shop hours, and it’s not exactly free (you’re strongly encouraged to make a donation). This bike station is an entirely different thing: it’s not suitable for complicated repairs, but will make it much easier to change a tire or make a quick fix on your way to work.

Paramount Room owner Jon Young says that he’s had regular customers who are cyclists for a while, but what spurred him to try to attract more was the elimination of street parking outside the bar when the bike lanes on Milwaukee were redone in June (the Paramount Room is just north of the Milwaukee/Kinzie/Desplaines intersection). When the restaurant opened six years ago, he says, they were the only business on the block facing the street, so the 20 unmetered parking spots out front were almost like having a parking lot.

For a small business, the elimination of parking that customers were used to was a big deal, Young says. But he’s a cyclist himself, and decided to try to make the best of the situation. “We’re trying to capitalize on the clientele that’s passing us every day on bikes. This is pretty much the busiest commuter street in the city, and we’ve never really taken advantage of that.” (He also offers discounts on food for cyclists and hosts a bike night once a month with $4 pints.)

Jim Merrell, a campaign manager for the Active Transportation Alliance, says that the organization often works with bike-friendly businesses to try to support them. “It’s a way to recognize and celebrate local businesses and small businesses that are leaders in supporting our mission to make Chicago the best bike city in the country,” Merrell says. “Our role here is, we’re interested in supporting the message that investment in bike infrastructure, like this bike lane, is good for local businesses.”