Why don't we do it in the road?
Sunday Parkways may be coming to a street near you.
“How come you park in a driveway and drive in a parkway?” goes the old joke. But if the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gets its way, folks soon will pedal, walk, skate and party in the city’s parkways without having to worry about car traffic.
An initiative called Sunday Parkways would ban car traffic on certain Sunday afternoons along a 7.5-mile route of the boulevard system connecting Little Village, North Lawndale, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Logan Square. The result would be temporary greenways for non-noxious transportation, and more open space for families to exercise and hang out—a cross between a massive block party and a supersized Lakefront Path.
The plan was hatched in 2003 when the group’s chief strategy officer, Randy Neufeld, rode in the Sunday Ciclovia in Bogota, Colombia, where every week for years, nearly a million people have been coming out to play on the 75-mile network of streets temporarily closed to motor vehicles. Stoked, Neufeld wanted to bring the concept home to Chicago.
Mayor Daley has given his blessing, and CBF is asking community groups for their support to test Sunday Parkways on a couple of days in late summer or early fall. If it’s successful, the network could be expanded to include more neighborhoods. Because cross-streets will still be open to cars, with nonmotorized traffic obeying traffic signals, the surrounding street network will not be affected. Police and volunteers will monitor the area.
Structured events would include fitness classes, such as aerobics and yoga, organized by the Mayor’s Fitness Council in the parks along the route. Ideally, the open parkways would inspire pickup soccer games, drum circles and barbecuing. CBF has been meeting with and recruiting community organizations like the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, the Little Village Development Corporation and the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce.
“Sunday Parkways will make Logan Square more vibrant and increase the quality of life,” says Josh Deth, head of the Logan Square chamber. “Since the planned route is centered on the boulevards and traffic will continue to flow on Fullerton, Milwaukee and Armitage, we don’t expect any negative impact on businesses.”
“[The] focus on healthy physical activity will especially benefit low-income neighborhoods where asthma and obesity rates are high. And it’ll be cleaning the air…so of course the Lung Association supports that,” says Lilliana de Santiago of the local chapter.
CBF executive director Rob Sadowsky says the biggest roadblock to Sunday Parkways is a lack of cash. Putting on two pilot days will cost at least $150,000, mostly for police and traffic management. But it’s a tough time to find public money for health initiatives, so CBF is seeking 100 percent private funding for this year’s rides in the form of grants from foundations and corporations.
Another concern comes from clergy who are worried that it will become more difficult to drive to services, Sadowsky says. He recently met with church reps to brainstorm parking options for parishioners.
But he points out that Humboldt Park’s New Covenant Church is embracing the plan, and might encourage members to stroll along the boulevards to another church’s services on some weeks and invite other congregations to visit them on foot on other Sundays. Sadowsky seconds the idea. “The health of the physical body is an important expression of faith.”
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