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“Reimagining Mobility’’ series encourages Lawndale residents to explore diverse travel modes

The walk at Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton

While overcast and raining might not be the best conditions for a neighborhood walking tour, inclement weather didn't stop the third weekly installment of the “Reimagining Mobility in North Lawndale’’ walking series last Sunday. The events are called that because the mobility justice nonprofit Equicity, which organizes them, wanted residents of the West Side community to build new relationships with diverse travel modes, including walking, biking, transit, and shared-mobility options like bike-share and scooters.

Each walk in the series travels in a different direction. On November 21, it was south, on November 28 it was north, and on Sunday it was west. The walks are usually planned by Equiticity leader Oboi Reed, and Tanishia Jones, the group's mobility justice manager. However, last weekend's route was designed by Jonathan Kelly, co-founder of the Lawndale Popup Spot, a museum in a shipping container in a community garden.

“The point of the series was to kind of do a history of what North Lawndale was, is and could be primarily along Pulaski, from Roosevelt to 20th street,” Reed explained.

The walk gathered at 19th and Pulaski. Before stepping off, the event planners gave an introduction, including a few words from Jones paying respect to the indigenous tribes that originally owned the land.

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When the participants reached Unity Park, a few blocks west at 19th and Kildare, the park’s co-founder Miss Gladys Woodson gave a presentation. Miss Woodson is a longtime educator and community leader in the K-town section of North Lawndale, so called because the north-south streets start with K. Afterwards the walkers returned to the starting point.

Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton

“Even though [the Lawndale Popup Spot] is based at Central Park and Douglas, we really want to be part of the entire community," said Kelly. "Sometimes K-town doesn’t get quite the love of the rest of North Lawndale does, so we just talked about how Unity Park got its start, and we looked at some of the housing along 19th street and got a sense of who was living there, who used to live there, and saw some things that I never saw before, and we were lucky enough to have Miss Gladys join us to talk about how she and other residents decided to take this land that had been subjected to a lot of crime and trash and negative consequences and build it into this beautiful space.”

Miss Gladys Woodson, right, at Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Miss Gladys Woodson, right, at Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Miss Gladys Woodson, right, at Unity Park. Photo: Cameron Bolton

The walking series was presented as part of The Go Hub project, a community mobility resource center that has been in the works for the past three years, according to Reed. The will primarily serving Black and Latino residents of lower-income communities with limited transportation resources.

“As we moved closer to bringing The Go Hub to life, we recognized the importance of executing our community mobility rituals in connection with the future home of the hub as a vehicle to generate hyperlocal demand for facility,” Reed said.

The Go Hub strategy involves a lot of “software” and “hardware,” Reed added. The “software” is socializing around the act of "exercising the human right to mobility while being integrated into the physical access to the infrastructure, which would be the 'hardware.'" Both of these elements would come together in a physical building that would serve as a community mobility center.

“They could sign up for services," Jones said. "They could sign up for classes around biking and safety and things of that nature as well as ask any questions, and just kind of vibe and chill. We’re looking to set up some outdoor areas and things
of that nature as well.”

The plan is for The Go Hub to include shared electric vehicles, including e-bikes and e-scooters; routing info; repair facilities; bicycle storage; transit passes; and charging stations. Other planned amenities include information kiosks, book sharing, a farmer’s market, retail, and wifi.

For those who might have wanted to show up last Sunday but were put off, there’s still one more chance to take part in the walking series on Sunday, December 12th – sign up here.

Equity is currently fundraising — they aim to raise $50K for their mobility justice initiatives by the end of the year.

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