Jose Lopez offers the PRCC’s perspective on the Paseo bike lanes


Jose Lopez speaks at the opening of West Town Bikes / Ciclo Urbano in 2009. Photo by Vanessa Roanhorse.

Today I contacted Jose Lopez, longtime director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) for his perspective on the new bike lanes on Division Street along Humboldt Park’s Paseo Boricua business district. He had read yesterday’s post on the subject, and he feels it’s not quite accurate to say that his organization objected to the lanes when the Chicago Department of Transportation first proposed them in 2003.

“It was not that we and Alderman Ocasio opposed the lanes,” he says. “But at the time it was viewed as a process that mostly involved white people, although Humboldt Park has historically supported bicycling. Our attitude was that we would support the lanes as long as there was community engagement in terms of how the lanes would connect with the community’s own projects and ideas about cycling. We never really got a response from the city and that was the problem.”

He says that the PRCC’s partnership with West Town Bikes / Ciclo Urbano helped to overcome these issues. “Our work with West Town has been really rewarding,” he says. “It has helped us do cycling in a more comprehensive and holistic way in terms of community building and health.” For example, he says, kids from West Town participate in all the parades the PRCC organizes in the neighborhood, like the Three Kings Day procession, a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas celebration, where the West Town students wear crowns and ride bikes decorated to look like camels.


Photo by Agentawesome2.

Lopez adds that West Town recently built two cargo bikes that young people will use to transport fruits and vegetables from from La Cosecha (“The Harvest”) a new fresh market opening this month at 2701 W. Division. They’ll deliver the produce to home-bound people, seniors, corner stores and restaurants as part of the PRCC’s efforts to improve residents’ access to healthy food.

In the end, Lopez say he’s happy to see the lanes on the Paseo. “These bicycle lanes are really going to promote cycling in the neighborhood,” he says. “But they’re not there because some people wanted them without engaging the community. We wanted there to be an organic participation with the community, and we have that now.”

Read the discussion about this topic on EveryBlock.

Published by

John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

12 thoughts on “Jose Lopez offers the PRCC’s perspective on the Paseo bike lanes”

  1. It is a happy outcome and it is great that there is “organic participation from the community”. But bike lanes should not be subject to local whims. We need a network of bike lanes or off street trails all over the city.
    Lots of neighborhoods in Chicago have become sadly automobile dependent in no small part because they are under-served by public transit and abandoned by employers. Often these are “scary” neighborhoods to ride through or in because they are so car-centric. There is a chicken-egg problem that contributes to the problem: people don’t ride because there are so many people driving cars. The lack of facilities is a part of that problem – people also don’t ride because the roads design itself is hostile to bikes – that won’t get fixed until people ride, but they don’t ride because… [cycle starts over]

  2.  “It was not that we and Alderman Ocasio opposed the lanes,” he says.
    “But at the time it was viewed as a process that mostly involved white
    people”!!!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE HE SAID THIS!!! And the white baker was called a racist for talking about shootings by her store!!!! So they oppose things that mostly involve WHITE PEOPLE, sounds racist to me!!!

    1.  Would this statement have made more sense to you if he has said, “At the time it was viewed as a process that mostly did not involve people from the community”? Because when you’re talking about people from the Humboldt Park community, especially along the Paseo Boricua, you’re mostly talking about people of color.

      1. John, it isn’t always what is said, it is HOW it is said. When phrases like “white-skinned privledge,” “white privledge,” “white people,” etc., etc. are injected into a dialogue, it ALTERS what might otherwise be a mostly productive conversation and TRANSFORMS it into a diminutive version.

        If you want to talk about bikes, talk about three-wheelers, goofy ones, red tires, painted yellow, kooky flugle horns, unicyles, and we all know that you are talking about the DIVERSITY of bicycles out there.

        Talk about Humboldt Park, and you better talk about people with other points of origin than Puerto Rico or you are speaking untruths.

        If you want to talk about the Paseo (Division Street from Western to California), you do want to talk about white…ghosts, that is, because it is a ghost-town. It is lined with vacant commercial properties, and those that are filled are a majority of social service agencies, not-for-profits, and other such things that Lopez, Ocasio and their ilk consider true “community resources.” This area has been on hold and on reserve for Puerto Rican owned or themed businesses to inhabit, which just hasn’t yet materialized. The commercial streets (North Ave. and Chicago Ave.) nearby are experiencing urban renewal, with lots of shops, places to eat and drink, all of which provide tax revenue for the city and provide job opportunities for area residents.

        Those of us who live nearby are for the most part resigned that New Life and Opportunity will sidestep Division St. (which is fabulous just a few blocks east of the P.R. flag-sculpture) and will unavoidably fill in around it, serving the real needs of the community rather than those dramatized by the aforementioned “leaders.”

          1. Let me get this straight. So…when the city decides to put in bike lanes, they should host meetings to engage each community group the lanes pass through? Say…every 5 to 10 blocks? I don’t care if the guys planning bike lanes across the city are white, black, pink or purple. In my opinion, bike lanes are about getting from one point to another safely. And if a community doesn’t want safe passage for bikers, well then screw them! Put them in against their wishes. Bikers deserve safe paths throughout the entire city, whatever the predominant skin color of the bikers or the community their traveling in.  

  3. It’s great to hear people talking about the many shapes bicycling can take. Lots of people are biking in US cities without participating in “bike culture.” Woo hoo for many bicycle cultures!

  4. Is anyone else bothered by the bigoted comments that seem to flow unchecked out of Jose Lopez’s mouth at every occasion?“It was not that we [PRCC] and Alderman Ocasio opposed the lanes,” he says. “But at the time it was viewed as a process that mostly involved white people…”I’m not sure what the solution is, but maybe some tolerance classes? At some point, I hope that community leaders, politicians, and those whose paychecks are funded by tax dollars are held responsible for what they say. Mr. Lopez and his ilk seem to want to bad-mouth “white people” (and other non-Puerto Ricans) at every opportunity, and at some point the push and drive for PR identity becomes offensive and isolating to others. I attended a Humboldt Park Advisory meeting this year, and during a discussion of the upcoming RIOT-FEST one of the P.R. Parade Committee representatives called it ANGLO-FEST.I don’t know about you, but I think that community representatives AT A PUBLIC MEETING should AT LEAST have the appearance of being impartial and interested in the concerns of the community, from a LARGER perspective than the Puerto Rican perspective.If you are unable to purge or conceal your biases, shouldn’t you at least reserve your racial biases and negative comments for conversations on private property? Should racially divisive comments be allowed to proliferate and stand unchallenged at public meetings or emanating from “community leaders”?I for one am NOT going to let this kind of ridiculous talk perpetuate and meetings that I attend will be CIVILIZED if I can help it.Everyone needs to be kept in check.Humboldt Park is for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *