For 14-year-old Demonta Foster, riding his bike can be a harrowing experience in his West Side neighborhood.
“A lot of times people get snatched off their bikes,” Foster said. He’d like a safe place to bike ride without “being jumped on, killed [or] having your bike stolen.”
Foster will get his wish. On October 5 and 26, bicycles will own the streets in a new initiative called Sunday Parkways, sponsored by the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. To accommodate the riders, major thoroughfares along the city’s park boulevard system will go car-less during the October dates, allowing residents to bike, jog, and even roller blade along scenic tree-lined streets.
The focus of the free event is to create safe recreational places and to promote health and wellness. Organizers have dubbed the event the “roll and stroll.”
Sunday Parkways will traverse nearly nine miles through five West Side communities, including Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, North Lawndale and Little Village. The Oct. 5 event starts at the Logan Square Monument at Kedzie and Milwaukee and ends at Garfield Park.
The second half, Oct. 26, picks up at the Garfield Park Conservatory and ends in Little Village at 24th and California. Both events run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Activity stations offering exercises, dancing and aerobics will be set up along the route.
“Sunday Parkways will offer us a chance to walk, to run, ride our bicycles or maybe take someone in wheelchair out for a spin,” said Lissette Cardanedas, board president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, adding that simple activities such as these can reduce diabetes, hypertension and obesity commonly found in Chicago’s African-American and Latino communities.
“A little exercise can go a long way in helping to control these diseases,” she said.
The event mirrors similar rides in Bogota, Columbia called Ciclo Via and Via Recreactiva in Guadalajara, Mexico where bikes and recreational activities take over city streets. Similar activities have popped up in other U.S. cities including Portland, Ore. and New York City.
“We are not the first, but we’re jumping on a trend right now that is really necessary to combat this issue of obesity,” said 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colon, who cited a study that concluded that all Americans will be overweight within 30 years.
This projection, he stressed, could come to pass unless communities take a grassroots approach to be more responsible for their own health by creating activities like Sunday Parkways.
Sunday Parkways has been three years in the making. Logan Square Neighborhood Association initiated the project with the Chicago Bike Federation’s help. It gained steam with involvement from other organizations-all members of the New Communities Program, a community redevelopment project funded through Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC).
The Bike Federation’s Adolfo Hernandez applauded the five communities for working together with the Chicago Park District to bring this kind of activity to the West Side. Hernandez noted the lakefront has always been a draw for big-name athletic and recreational activities such as Bike the Drive.
“A lot of events happen on the east side of the city, right on the lake front,” he explained. “In these parts of the city that tend to be lower-income minority communities, there are not a lot of those large events. So we were very purposeful about bringing it here.”