I was lucky enough to catch up with Jerod Powell after he joined us at Empire for my last Naperville Bike Club meeting. Jerod, who is a mechanic at Pedal and Spoke, is launching an Aurora Bike Club and is director of Dirty Bikes in Aurora which is a part of the Renewed Roots Initiative.
Renewed Roots Initiative is a community farm and bicycle shop that focuses on urban sustainability. Their purpose is to demonstrate a new way of life and a sustainable way of life - growing your own organic foods, harvesting and using foods that would otherwise be wasted and zero carbon footprint transportation.
Dirty Bikes doesn’t just want to put bikes in people’s hands, they are using the ‘Earn a Bike’ program as a model. They accept five youths a few times a year to teach mechanics by tearing apart a bike and rebuilding it. They make it a point to not let the tools leave the youths’ hands.
Prior to volunteering with Renewed Roots Initiative and running Dirty Bikes, Powell volunteered for Triple Threat Mentoring which ran an ‘Earn a Bike’ program three times a year. Triple Threat represents the 3 A’s: Arts, Academics and Athletics, he says.
Powell’s own passion for cycling began when he returned from serving four years in the Navy to civilian life. While serving, he worked as a submarine machinist, a diesel technician and a ‘jack of all trades’.
“I had a rough transition. I found a rusty bike that I could use for transportation, but then I began finding the trails and noticing everything. You see so much more by bike. Then I saved every penny I had so I could go to Barnett (Bicycle Institute),” he reminisced.
Barnett Bicycle Institute is the kind of place that will teach you everything from bicycle mechanics to how to lay out a shop.
Currently, Jerod is offering bike tune ups to help raise extra money for Dirty Bikes for those getting ready for the spring and summer cycling season. You can also meet the Renewed Roots Initiative team at the Aurora Farmer’s Market every Saturday starting in June and learn about their urban sustainability efforts, how to buy into the garden plots (of which there are only four left and they’re only $25 each!), or how to buy shares in the CSA (community sustained agriculture) to get all your fresh summer veggies.
Not only are they offering buy in, they are also charitable, according to Powell, as last year they gave away about 1000 pounds of food to the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry.
“About 60 billion tons of food go unharvested annually,” Powell says as he discusses Renewed Roots Initiative’s Urban Orchard project where they harvest from public and private trees and sell or give away the fruit.
Powell has also joined the Aurora Bicycle, Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Board in an effort to work toward making Aurora an even more bicycle friendly community. This board began around 2008, but took pause during the ‘financial crisis’ and was recently put back together November 2016. There has been much progress since the financial crisis including the completion of the ‘green mile’ which is a mile long enclosed bike lane on River Street which received the 2016 Ride Illinois Project Award.
Among the Aurora BPT Advisory Board is Ed Barsotti who is the Executive Director of the League of Illinois Bicycles. Together they are looking at the shape of the city, its paths and sidewalks, and partnering with current construction efforts so that bicycle and pedestrian traffic is remembered as development occurs.