Alderman Rey Colon, 45, imagines open spaces in his Near West Side ward where residents could jog, bike, roller blade or simply stroll. The alderman, seeking his second term in the 35th Ward, is working with the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association to convert some streets in Logan Square to open spaces on Sundays.
The “Sunday Parkways” plan, set to launch in late summer or early fall, would create pedestrian-friendly areas by closing off road access to traffic from 8 a.m. to noon or from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Proposed parkway routes would initially extend over seven miles and would cover areas from Logan Boulevard to Humboldt Park and Kedzie Boulevard to Palmer Street.
Sunday Parkways supporters hope to build better neighborhood relations and promote an active lifestyle for the residents.
The inspiration for the Logan Square pilot came from Bogotá, Colombia, where scientists who were documenting a rise in obesity created public fitness trails in the hope of reversing the trend. Bogotá is not alone.
According to a 2002 study conducted by researchers at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, 25 percent of adults ages 45 to 54 in northeastern Illinois are considered obese. In Chicago, children ages 3 to 7 fall into the 23 percent obesity category, and that jumps to 45 percent for the 35th Ward.
“There needs to be an increase in physical activity in diverse Latin and African-American communities,” said Pete Rangel, 33, the community liaison for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and a member of the board of directors for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
According to The Institute for Latino Studies and the U.S. Census Chicago Fact Finder’s web site, 65.1 percent of the population in Logan Square is Hispanic.
In addition to creating a healthier lifestyle, Alderman Colon, who backs the proposal 100 percent, thinks the program will strengthen the ward’s sense of community.
“Kids don’t know each other anymore,” Colon said, “Sunday Parkways will hopefully build relationships with folks.”
However, Colon’s aldermanic opponents think Sunday Parkways will cause problems. Miguel Sotomayor, 49, former local school council president, doesn’t support the program.
“If you have the boulevards close, it’s going to create traffic gridlock,” Sotomayor said.
“The idea that it will create gridlock is a fallacy,” said Rangel, who is in charge of the Sunday Parkways program for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.
Rangel said under the proposal, traffic would be limited on certain routes but the grid would never be shut down on major thoroughfares.
Others worry that blocking streets would make it difficult for parishioners to get to their places of worship.
Pastor Charles Lyon, 55, and business administrator Michael Gregory, 42, of the Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Blvd., say that though they like the Sunday Parkways idea, they cannot support it.
“Anything that (prevents) our congregants ability to attend services is a big problem to us,” Gregory said.
Gregory explained that parking is always an issue in Logan Square, and by reducing the availability of parking, the church would ultimately lose members.
“We live for Sunday; it’s our only day and it’s the lifeline of our church,” Gregory said.
Rangel said the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications are working to coordinate street closing times so that won’t conflict with the majority of church services.
Former alderman Vilma Colom, 52, who is also running in Tuesday’s election, opposes Sunday Parkways as well.
“Why would you infringe on the people who have lived here? Colom said.
City Life Mind & Body Northwest Side Public
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