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Open Boulevards invites North Lawndale residents to come out and enjoy car-free streets 

Having fun on the pedestrianized roadway at Open Boulevards. Photo: James Porter

This post is sponsored by Ride Illinois.

Chicagoland enjoyed a final blast of warm weather last Sunday when the city of Chicago and various community organizations once again hosted the Open Boulevards street festival on Douglas Boulevard in North Lawndale.

Skating on car-free Douglas Boulevard. Photo: James Porter

From noon to 5 p.m. neighbors were invited to experience the historic, now car-free roadway "as a community space where residents can stroll, bike, and enjoy culture," the Chicago Department of Transportation posted.

CDOT poster for Open Boulevards.

Folks were free to walk, bike, skate and scooter down a pedestrianized Douglas Boulevard (1400 S.) from Central Park Avenue (3600 W.) to Independence Boulevard (3800 W.) / 13th Street without without worrying about motor vehicles. Several locations were set up along the way for face-painting, CDOT info tables, and live entertainment.

Face painting on the boulevard. Photo: James Porter

There was also a community bike ride early in the afternoon starting and ending at Open Boulevards, hosted by the North Lawndale-based mobility justice nonprofit Equiticity and the local youth program Boxing Out Negativity. Divvy cycles were available as loaner bikes. The leisurely hour-long ride was open to youth and families with young kids.

One of Working Bikes' unique cycles. Photo: James Porter

Working Bikes, a Pilsen-based community bike shop that redistributes donated cycles, was on hand, providing several unique loaner bikes for kids to tool around on. And several daredevil rollerskaters made full use of the open street.

Romina Castillo with a friend. Photo: James Porter

Romina Castillo, director of outreach and engagement at CDOT, said due to the various summer festivals in the city, Open Boulevards was moved to the fall, when there was less competition for attendees. "We're still working on, maybe for next year, being able to schedule more events like this one on different boulevards. We'd also like to make them earlier during the year, so there's even more people outside participating."

Abrylia. Photo: James Porter

It was clear that many residents enjoyed the car-free streets. "It gives everybody an opportunity to come together," said a North Lawndale resident named Abrylia, who also goes by the nickname Breezy. "It's just something positive to do in the community for everybody around." 

Erthe St. James and his band. Photo: James Porter

A South Sider named Jean-Pierre who specifically came to Open Boulevards to see local soul singer Earthe St. James. This was Jean-Pierre's first time at the event, and he said he was impressed. Not only did he approve of the car-free biking, but he also joked that he appreciated that one could "go for an easy stroll without getting hit."

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