The West Side of Chicago is composed of vibrant communities where engaged neighbors and stakeholders organize events and programing for community residents every year, specifically around summer time to increase the number of safe spaces where youth and families can participate in positive, fun and educational activities.
Vision Zero Chicago partnered with four community organizations to sponsor and co-host events in the neighborhoods of Austin, Garfield Park, and North Lawndale. These events embedded the Vision Zero message into existing, community-led events.
This model of partnership encouraged a celebration of West Side communities and galvanized community support to build a culture of safety. The activities at these events were designed to make transportation investment, street design, and enforcement strategies engaging topics for all ages. By inviting people to draw on the sidewalk, lounge in the street, envision their ideal safe street, map their walking routes, decorate bump outs, and share their feedback on community priorities, we were able to spark conversations about how we can collectively reach Vision Zero’s ambitious goals.
Overall, the Vision Zero events provided a space for authentic conversations about street design, equity in transportation, and enforcement strategies. Residents signed pledges, filled out surveys, and provided thoughtful responses in a collective effort to think of Chicago’s streets in new ways.
The Vision Zero team supported Build Chicago and Garfield Park Community Council to “light the night” at their respective events in Austin and Garfield Park. On August 24, a group of volunteers, staff, and neighbors came together at Hubbard Park with engaging activities, food and music to remind people about the importance of fostering a culture of safety in their community for the well being of every resident. As a result, everyone walked away with a better understanding of the connection between traffic violence and interpersonal violence.
Similarly, in Garfield Park, music, a petting zoo, bouncy house and food were some of the attractions at this ‘Light in the Night’ on September 8. The event took place at the intersection of Lake Street and Kedzie Street; a priority location for improvements as identified by the community. Vision Zero was able to leverage resources with CDOT to install a “rapid delivery” pilot design of paint and post bump outs to help narrow crossings and make pedestrians more visible.
To make this intervention stand out and make it more community-friendly, the Vision Zero team used temporary spray-chalk to color in between the lines of the bump outs. The result were colorful designs in a space otherwise made dark by the L tracks overhead. To help track local response, the team collected surveys about how the intervention was being perceived.
Finally, the 1,500-plus attendees of the 11th annual Lawndale 5K had a surprise waiting for them – a pop-up oasis complete with palms, grass, and chairs, plus live-painting, chair-massages, and more! On September 29, the Vision Zero team talked to several hundred runners and spectators of all ages about what safe streets can look like and how to achieve them. The “Design a Street” activity – aside from familiarizing people with transportation lingo – sparked thoughtful conversations about the ways each individual can tackle some of their neighborhoods’ most pressing safety issues.
At this event, Divvy was on-hand with a photo-booth and cookie-decorating; the Active Transportation Alliance came to advocate for infrastructure investment, and South Side’s pop-up paint studio Urban Art Dreams facilitated a collective-painting experience with participants of all ages to creatively address the idea of safe streets.
Through these events, Vision Zero was able to reach hundreds of West Side residents in a meaningful and relevant way. Relationships with partners such as Build Chicago, Garfield Park Community Council, Breakthrough, Lawndale Christian Health Center and Divvy were strengthened and enhanced. It will take all of us to reach zero, but Westsiders demonstrated that reaching zero is a challenge they are willing to take! Will you?