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.