After the Table

“Bike Lady” uses Acting Up award to inspire wellness in Riverdale

by Yolanda Y. Harris | April 6, 2018

When people see Deloris Lucas, 62, riding her bike in the Riverdale community on Chicago’s far Southeast Side, it’s not uncommon to hear someone yell out, “There goes the bike lady!”

After all, she often wears a bright yellow or orange hoody, matching gloves, ankle reflectors and a black or gray helmet. And, she honks an old clown horn that she mounts on the donated bike that she rides for the day.

Ever since she was a teenager, Deloris has ridden her bike throughout Golden Gate, a Riverdale subdivision where she’s lived since 1967. She’s turned her love for biking into a community-wide biking and wellness initiative for the Riverdale community: We Keep You Rollin (Bike and Wellness Group).

Her On the Table experience

Last May, Deloris used her passion for wellness to host an On the Table discussion on achieving wellness in Riverdale. That 15-person discussion at Carver Park, and the resulting ideas for community action, led to Deloris becoming a recipient of a $1,000 Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust last June.

Deloris described her On the Table experience as “enlightening.” 

“It brought out people in the community who would have never come out, It brought us together. It gave us a chance to get some feedback on what they wanted to work on.”

Deloris Lucas

And although participants tended to over-reminisce about Riverdale in its heyday, Deloris, a former Carver High School pom-pom girl and 1973 class president, nudged the discussion toward future action. For Deloris, future action involved community wellness.

Deloris used the Acting Up award to purchase repair supplies, to recycle bikes back into the community and to build a shed where bikes are stored for the residents. She also organized the second annual “We Keep You Rollin’ Community Bike Ride”on July 15, 2017.

Her inspiration for wellness through biking

Biking took on special significance for Deloris when she was diagnosed with high blood pressure several years ago. She saw biking as a way to maintain better health.

“I am always trying to work on my wellness by losing a little weight, maintaining my pressure, keeping it tight, riding to work,” she said.

Deloris often rides her bike to Riverdale schools, such as Aldridge, Carver and DuBois elementary schools, where she works as a substitute teacher.   

She said: “People would always see me riding, and say ‘Hey, I need to be riding with you!’”

So in 2015, she started a bike repair shop and bike sharing program to help get people on wheels. 

View Deloris Lucas’ video submission on what she proposed to do in 2017 with an Acting Up award: Community Bike Riding

Her activities since Acting Up award

Today, We Keep You Rollin’ (Bike and Wellness Group) has evolved into a nonprofit organization focused on biking, walking and wellness. Deloris says the nonprofit serves all residents of Riverdale (which encompasses Golden Gate, Concordia Place, Riverside Village, Pangea Lakes and Altgeld Gardens), no matter if they’re walking, biking or using a walker on wheels.

Since receiving the Acting Up award, Deloris has built new partnerships with other bike organizations, TCA Health Center and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.  For example, Working Bikes donates refurbished bikes to her. In her “Earn a Bike” program, she gives area residents a chance to earn points for a free bike by performing helpful tasks in the community, like picking up trash, watering flowers, pulling weeds and passing out fliers for community activities. 

She’s especially excited about her new partnership with China-based ofo (sic), which donated 13 dockless bikes to create a bike-sharing program. Dockless bikes don’t require a docking station and can be located, locked and unlocked using a smartphone app.

We’re not charging a fee for these bikes,” Deloris said. “We’re riding them for wellness.”

Deloris continues her activism for wellness in Riverdale today by organizing bike rides, wellness workshops and biking ecotours and by teaching residents about community resources and nature areas. She also will host another On the Table event this year. Her 2018 table discussion will focus on pedestrian safety, neighborhood beautification and anti-littering.

Pictured above: Bikers at Golden Gate Park preparing for takeoff at the second annual “We Keep You Rollin’” community bike ride for residents of the Riverdale community on July 15, 2017. The Chicago Community Trust’s Acting Up award helped Deloris Lucas purchase bike repair supplies, provide storage space for bikes and organize the bike ride.