The Chainlink

Attention Cyclist-Motorists, Wells Automotive Service doesn't want your business

I apologize for the length and I normally wouldn't post something like this. I might gripe in comments about the businesses and their employees who endanger us on the streets everyday and put it to my memory not to patronize them. However my experience this morning compelled me to write something more substantial.

As many of you who ride Wells St can attest, trucks (generally food distributors) in the bike lane are problem on the stretch from Eugenie to Division. Generally, Wells Automotive is pretty good about it, though I've seen some poor park jobs. But anyway, this isn't about that, this is about a Wells Automotive employee who felt it was fun(ny) to honk and swerve at me.

A half block south of Division, I legally took the lane to pass slower cyclist in the bike lane. Further up past Walter Payton was a queue of stopped cars, so if I was an impediment to any motorist behind, it was short and it was not like they had anywhere to go. I guess that was too much for a young Wells Automotive employee in a blue Jeep. First he laid on his horn, as if somehow me moving would clear the lane of line of cars in front of him. Then he moved across the dashed yellow, into the oncoming lane and swerved at me laughing. OK, whatever. Anyone who rides in Chicago deals threatening, careless motorists everyday. Some are regular folks, others are employees of business with their namesake stamped onto their vehicles. The latter at least give you some recourse with identifying them and making it known to their companies how they act on their behalf.

With the description of the driver and the vehicle I called Wells Automotive and spoke to the owner/manager Mike. I explained what happened, hoping to maybe get a "I'll speak to him" or some sort of apology. What I got was a John Kass-esque response. I guess it's not entirely surprising from the owner of a place that makes it money off of repairing cars. Here is a sample of his response and my comments to them:

- "I don't have any sympathy for cyclists."

- "Maybe he was avoiding a chipmunk."

- "Were you in the bike lane?" (my initial explanation of what happened stated that I was not, but was legally passing another cyclists)

- "Did you stop at the stop sign?" (There are none on that stretch.)

- "Did you stop at the stop sign in front of my business." (Yes, but that was 3 blocks before this happened.)

- "Did you stop at the stoplight at Division" (Yes, but again, not the issue.)

- "Clearly I don't care, why are we still discussing this."

I don't generally hold businesses responsible for the attitudes of their employees towards cyclists. I do believe the business should hold them accountable for their actions on the job, in their vehicles, or when acting on their behalf. However, it's clear to me that  the derision of cyclists by Wells Automotive employees comes directly from the top. Despite being located on a street where hundreds of potential cyclist/motorists customers ride by every day, Wells Automotive prefers you not to. 

They don't care about your safety and they don't want your business. The owner flat out told me the former and I'm here telling you the latter.

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Wow, what a jerk.  I'm glad you posted this.

I had a run in with a driver in a Wells truck a year or so ago on Elston. He was parked in the bike lane right next to several open parking spaces in the parking lane that is supposed to act as a buffer between the bike lane and traffic.  I thought it was just a simple case of confusion over the lanes, but when I asked him to move over I got an expletive-laden response. He wasn't even doing anything job-related. Just taking a break I think. I called Wells, but the owner was not in

Like, just move over 4 feet to the curb and stop half-assing it. Seems to be too hard for a lot of people.

Be glad you didn't speak to the owner.

Thanks for the heads-up about a business that shouldn't be patronized.

This is saddening to hear. I don't think that Wells Automotive should think their sentiments are acceptable. I am sure the owner and employees would feel different if they had spouse or son/daughter that was a cyclist. Is there a diplomatic way to try to communicate with them further? Can you reach out to Active Trans and maybe they can reach out?

I agree with your sentiments and of course Mike doesn't speak for all his employees. However, I don't think he'll be changing his tune.

We've all dealt with indifferent drivers/workers, but I was dismayed to hear the owner of a business on such a popular bike route speak so callously. While he doesn't make his money off cyclists, I think his neighbors might disagree and appreciate the business and exposure a popular bike route brings them. 

They've been jerks towards cyclists for years. This just emphasizes the point.

Not a BBB approved business. "This business is not BBB accredited."

https://www.bbb.org/us/il/chicago/profile/auto-repair/wells-automot...

Same crappy attitude as the valet people in front of restaurants like Ditka"s.

Totally abhorrent on their part. Thanks for the head's up.

Ironic since Village Cycle Center is a couple doors north and JC Lind Bike Co is a couple doors south. I don't know if that is who you meant when you referred to the neighbors. One would think the three could work together to expand all of their business. Some people are just too myopic for their own good.

I generally meant all the businesses in that Wells St business corridor. I see plenty of folks Divvying to bars, restaurants, and other retail there. The bike-related were too obvious. :)

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