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Can Cargo Bikes Replace U-Hauls? Green Machine Cycles Owner Hopes So

By Patty Wetli | October 24, 2013 9:38am
 Green Machine Cycles opens in North Center with an emphasis on cargo bikes.
Green Machine Cycles
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NORTH CENTER — If Ezra Hozinky has his way, bicycles are about to replace the U-haul.

After kicking around Chicago's bike scene for years as a self-described "grease monkey," including stints at J.C. Lind and the original Turin, Hozinsky opened Green Machine Cycles on Montrose Avenue earlier this month — a bike shop with a decided emphasis on utility.

As in utility, or cargo, bikes.

Cargo bikes, which can be infinitely accessorized with racks, bags and even sidecars, are meant for hauling — be it taking the kids to school, carrying a load of laundry to the dry cleaners or schlepping a week's worth of groceries.

"I think it's the most appropriate way of moving personal items around the city," he said.

"The more people that are on the road getting through their daily activities on a bike, the healthier they'll be, they'll engage with street life more," Hozinsky said. "It's a mindset shift, it's thinking about street life instead of staying in cars. It's believing in public life."

Staking a claim to the cargo bike niche is just one part of his plan to make cycling, already an eco-friendly mode of transportation, even greener.

Looking for a fender for your bike? Hozinsky has considered the available choices and, to the best of his ability, taken into account the material components, the source of the raw materials, how those materials were transported to a factory, the energy required to produce the fender and whether the workers who made the fender were paid a living wage.

"Through this tiny little corner of the world, I want to offer people the option to think about their purchases and to provide products already on the more sustainable end," he said. "This is not really a shop that is seeking to serve the traditional competitive cyclist."

Hozinsky, a Hyde Park native who now lives in Rogers Park, became keenly interested in issues of sustainability while obtaining a degree in architecture during a break from the bike world.

"I just felt stymied, like there was more to life than repairing bikes," he said.

Green Machine is his way of taking principles that guide an architect's decisions and putting them into practice in a small business environment.

Hozinsky's commitment can be seen in every aspect of his shop's operation, from the Green Guru Gear he stocks, which is made of "upcycled" inner tubes, to the nontoxic and biodegradable cleaners and lubricants he uses in repairs and tune-ups.

Hozinsky insists he's not "some kind of bike prophet."

His primary goal — next to turning a profit — is to simply normalize cycling.

"The more bikes that people see on the road, the more it appears bikes are part of Chicago's urban landscape," he said. "It's about bringing cycling to the point where nothing about it is odd."

Green Machine Cycles is throwing a grand opening PumpKarvGo celebration from 2-10 p.m. Sunday at 1634 W. Montrose Ave. Prizes will be awarded to the guests who haul the largest pumpkin and most small pumpkins to the event, which will also include pumpkin carving.

Chicago's Cargo Bike Roll Call will also gather at the party, with cargo bike owners bringing their cycles to Green Machine for the public to test ride.