Women participate in a women's wellness walk as part of the Go Campaign summer program launched in Bronzeville in 2013. The Co Campaign now seeks to come to the West Side for what is likely the last summer the four-year program will exist. | Courtesy City of Chicago

This summer, The Chicago Department of Transportation and Active Transportation Alliance will be teaming up with local organizations and elected officials on the West Side’s first ever Go Campaign, a program designed to encourage residents of city neighborhoods to walk, bike and take public transit.

The local campaign, which will target the West and East Garfield Park communities, will be called Go Garfield Park and could likely be the likely of its kind.

“Unfortunately, this is the last year of the federal grant,” said Maggie Melin, a Go Campaign program coordinator. “The program was made possible due to a grant the city received to organize these types of campaigns in five neighborhoods over four years.”

While many details about Go Garfield still need to be worked out, the project has already received support from local aldermen and program officials have been reaching out to area community organizations.

Melin said she hopes the program will be as well received in Austin as it has been in other communities.

“During each program, we had a wonderful time meeting residents and enjoying and exploring the community with them,” Melin said. “The response from residents was very positive. At past events, we would sometimes get over 50 people biking or walking with us.”

Melin said that West and East Garfield Park were natural choices for this year’s campaign.

“East and West Garfield Park already have a strong backbone in transportation and biking infrastructure, including the CTA Green and Blue Lines, bike lanes and several new Divvy stations coming to the neighborhoods this summer,” she said. “There are also many great organizations based in Garfield Park who are interested in health and wellness, and increasing positive street activity in the community.”

Melin said that the basic structure of Go Garfield Park will be similar to other Go Campaign programs. The organization will create “Go Kit” packets with information about biking and public transit options. During the summer, it will send out a newsletter to about 10,000 households, urging residents to order the kits. Residents will also be able to order packets online through the program website (gogarfieldpark.com), which will go live in late May, she said.

City officials have been working with local community organizations like the Garfield Park Community Council, the Garfield Workforce Center and Breakthrough Ministries on ideas for outdoor events, Melin noted, adding that the details of this brainstorming won’t be finalized until May.

Some ideas that have been discussed include visiting community gardens, community bike rides designed to show residents the best streets for cycling and a bike rodeo for kids, among others.

“We’ll likely have a workshop on how to properly fit a bike helmet and we’ll have some free helmets we can give away,” Melin said.

Go Garfield also reached out to Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th) and Jason Ervin (28th), who Melin noted “have been very supportive of the initiative and [they] hope to get involved this summer.”

Melin said the Go Garfield program will hire two local residents to serve as outreach ambassadors. According to a job description, they will deliver informational packets to households, appear at neighborhood public events to share information about the program and help organize and manage program events. The ambassadors would be hired on either a full-time or part-time basis and they will be paid $15 an hour.

Go Garfield Park will kick off in June and run until September. Melin said, although the formal program will be ending, the Go Campaign has put together a guide for residents who wish to start their own programs in their neighborhoods. It is currently available for download at http://chicagocompletestreets.org/gocampaign/.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...