Tuning up bikes for a healthier Westlawn

Andrew Dressel shows a youngster the art of bike maintenance. (Photos by Sally Nickerson)

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing and friends are sponsoring free monthly bike tune-ups at the Westlawn Housing project this summer. The college is part of the Westlawn Partnership for a Healthier Environment, which is focused on improving the area’s environment and the health of community residents.

Anne Dressel with some up-and-coming bikers

Anne Dressel with some up-and-coming bikers

Free tune-ups take place at Browning Elementary from 3 to 6 p.m. Future sessions are scheduled for July 6, Aug. 3, and Sept. 7.Westlawn is the state’s largest public housing project, with an economically and socially diverse population. The partnership includes residents, the City of Milwaukee Housing Authority and Health Department, Growing Power, the Environmental Protection Agency, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, Silver Spring Community Nursing Center, and other for-profit and nonprofit entities. The partners have been working since 2008 to improve public health in the area.

The bike tune-ups, led by Anne Dressel of the College of Nursing and her husband, Andrew Dressel, started in May. Tune-up services include tire pumping, chain oiling, flat tire repair and other minor adjustments.

Nearly a dozen people showed up for the first event, says Dressel, and some had to be turned away for lack of time. The program is hoping to attract more volunteers and participants by training local youth to fix bikes, she says. It is also looking to involve local businesses by asking them to donate helmets.

Getting the bike to fit right.

Offering free bike tune-ups to community members is an attempt to stimulate healthier lifestyles and exercise throughout the area, Dressel adds. The goal is to encourage cycling in Westlawn to spur the development of a more health-conscious district.

If more people in Westlawn would bike more frequently, she notes, it would help improve air quality in the area, and eventually help reduce related health risks like asthma.