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Retired and More Active Than Ever!

Meet Waymond Smith - avid recreational cyclist, bike commuter and volunteer for youth bike programs. Riding since he was a child, he has been a year round commuter for 15 years. Active in bike touring, he has ridden the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) 7 times. as well as numerous recreation rides on the weekends.

He used to commute to work by bike from Hyde Park to Skokie - a 40 mile round-trip ride, year-round. A real commitment! Now retired, he volunteers at Working Bikes and uses his bike to get around town and explore different neighborhoods. Despite some the challenges he has experienced, Waymond's passion for riding is undimmed.

Overcoming Barriers to Biking

His fit and lean physique is not what you expect of a retired man in his 60's, Waymond's face lights up when he discusses what he likes about riding. He mentions the exhilaration of soaring along open roads without any traffic and the wind on his face, He likes the freedom of the bike and the ability to explore areas. Waymond recalls when he used to drive and zoom past neighborhoods, not knowing much about them. Now that he's riding on a bike he can see the same places up close and in a new light.

​Waymond also likes the economics of biking; how it has saved him money from paying for a car, insurance, and a gym membership. He realized one day that there was a layer of dust sitting on the windshield of his car which convinced him that it was time to give it up. Grocery shopping is easy with his touring bike and the shopping panniers which are two huge bags that fit on the back of the bike. ​

He's delighted over the improvements in biking infrastructure, however still retains concerns over motorists who believe bicyclists should not be on the street. He also cites concerns about people parking in the bike lanes, including the police.

Like many dedicated riders Waymond owns multiple bikes, in this case five: one for flat touring, a Trek for hilly touring, a road-bike for riding at home and two bikes for guests. Living near the lakefront path, he takes visitors on casual rides to see the city.

Waymond would like to see more protected bicycle lanes and bicycle lights, as well as traffic signals for bicycles on major arteries. He also points out the need for greater awareness of biking in all parts of Chicago, including the south side.

An active supporter of bike infrastructure on the south side of Chicago, he recalls with disbelieve a comment from his local alderman on the South Shore who said "black people do not ride". This was in response to a controversy about adding bike lanes to Stony Island Avenue which she opposed. According to Waymond, this perception runs deep. He recalls another day when he was running an errand on the bike and a motorist pulled alongside him saying, "we don't do this [ride bicycles] on this side of the city".

When asked about this perception, he maintains a positive attitude, instead talking about the health benefits of biking a long time. Waymond credits biking with preventing him from any of so called diseases of poverty such as hypertension and diabetes. ​

"Biking is way out. It's a healthy lifestyle." - Waymond Smith

A Vision for Youth Biking in Chicago

In the past, Waymond worked as an independent contractor at Better Boys Foundation on the west side of Chicago which is part of After Schools Matter in Chicago. He taught bicycle safety and bike mechanics to youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Waymond saw first-hand how an introduction to the bicycle gives youth something to do and helps them to see better communities and ultimately build confidence in themselves.

Waymond shares a story of how he met the youth-based Dream Team RAGBRAI while on one of his rides across Iowa. The group was composed of teenagers in the court system in Des Moines, IA. They trained for months in preparation for riding across state, complete with riding gear and new bikes. Camping next to the group, Waymond was impressed by their discipline and focus. He realized that the program provided a framework for youth to set and achieve life goals. Waymond's vision is to bring a youth-based Dream Team bike program to Chicago. Not being one to stand still, he has already started building towards this goal.

This coming August he is biking along the Pacific Coast from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico. Dubbed Ride for the Borders 3 Nation Ride for Youth, the purpose is to raise $15,000 for organizations that assist with bike youth programs including West Town Bikes, Working Bikes, Slow Roll Chicago, Bikes and Roses, and Blackstone Chicago, He is asking people to sponsor the ride. You can support his effort by clicking here. It's a tangible step, or perhaps more aptly, a tangible pedal, towards his goal of helping youth in Chicago.



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