Sunday, June 15, 2008

What do bikes have to do with it?

Photo by Amadi Jordan-Walker

Daley Plaza was transformed by a sea of bicyclists last Friday morning as early morning commuters converged at Washington and Dearborn for the culmination of Bike to Work Week.

So what does that have to do with community development? More than you might think.

  1. The biggest cheers from the crowd, when awards were being announced, were for Alex Wilson, the co-founder of West Town Bikes. Alex and Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation started the very successful BickerBikes program that puts tools in the hands of local youth and teaches them how to fix up broken bikes and then ride them around town. It's a great program that continues to broaden horizons for kids in Humboldt Park and other neighborhoods.
  2. Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail was represented in one of the booths by its new executive director Julia Kim, who spoke enthusiastically about that group's efforts to transform an abandoned above-grade rail line into a unique east-west biking and walking trail. The trail will run between two park-short neighborhoods, Humboldt Park and Logan Square, and land is being assembled at various access points to provide mini-parks with ramps up to the trail. This will be huge for Chicago and those neighborhoods when it gets built.
  3. Neighborhood organizations and the city will launch Sunday Parkways in October, shutting off automobile traffic on boulevards through five neighborhoods (Logan Square, Humboldt Park, East Garfield, North Lawndale and Little Village) to encourage residents and families to get outside for healthy activities. This idea has been very popular in several Latin American countries and has strong support from local community development corporations including Bickerdike and the Logan Square Neighborhood Assn.
One of the awards went to LISC/Chicago's executive director Andy Mooney, in recognition of LISC's support of these efforts. In his short speech, Mayor Daley pointed out that biking, walking and public transit are all essential elements of making Chicago a more vibrant and livable city. Local residents have the same idea, as they've outlined numerous projects along those lines in the New Communties Program quality-of-life plans, from walking clubs for health to "walking schoolbuses" for safe passage to school, to new CTA and Metra rail stations, to more biking and athletic programs for youth.

What do bikes have to do with it? Plenty.

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