Jimmying up kickstands and dusting off sneakers, Edgewater is locking the four-door, tossing the keys and sprinting, with green feet, toward sustainable travel this summer. Or at least that’s what Go Edgewater — a City of Chicago federal grant program encouraging walking, biking and public transit — hopes to do this June through September in the Edgewater neighborhood.
Offering free resources, promotions and community events, Go Edgewater aims to educate residents on sustainable travel options and, ultimately, to reduce drive-alone trips, increase travel by foot, bike, transit and carpools, and foster a greater sense of community around walking and biking.
The campaign will last four months and is one of five neighborhood-centered programs funded by a highly competitive federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant that the city won a few years ago. In the 2012 to 2016 fiscal year CMAQ program, the city was awarded $2 million in federal funds for a bicycle marketing campaign that led to the creation of the “Go” campaigns. The funding allows Chicago to launch five community campaigns over the course of four years, piloting first with Go Bronzeville in 2013 and second with Go Pilsen in 2014.
Tracking an uptick in community engagement activity from its predecessor campaigns, Go Edgewater will piggyback off the program models used in Bronzeville and Pilsen, and tailor its outreach initiatives to Edgewater’s personality and needs.
“The secret to success behind these programs is getting community residents and organizations involved,” said Maggie Melin, a Go Campaign project coordinator who’s been with the program since it first launched in 2013.
Melin said the primary reasons Edgewater was chosen for the Go Edgewater program were largely due to the area’s already resilient sense of community, existing infrastructure and widespread support for sustainable transit.
Hiring what the program calls two outreach ambassadors who will serve as the eyes and ears on the ground, Go Edgewater will work with residents and local organizations to provide energetic community events relevant to walking and biking throughout the neighborhood.
“We want to create biking and walking events that allow residents the opportunity to experience biking, walking, and transit in a fun atmosphere,” said Melin. “We try to work with local groups and individuals to create these events so they come up organically, from the creativity of the individuals who live in the community.”
Go Edgewater has already solidified relationships with the Edgewater Development Corporation, Loyola University, the Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project, 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman’s office and ChainLinks. Through these collaborations, residents can expect to see Go Edgewater at the annual Edgewater Garage Sale on Saturday, June 6, and at the grand opening of the Edgewater Farmers Market on Saturday, June 13.
Go Edgewater also promises to hit the ground running with a launch event featuring a community bike parade on Saturday, June 20, complete with costume and bike decoration contests, bike maintenance stations and opportunities to sign up for free “Go Kits” — customized packets containing transportation resources and promotions that are assembled and hand-delivered by the program’s outreach ambassadors.
While Go Edgewater isn’t under pressure to hit any specific quotas, targets or turnout metrics, and proper analysis of the campaign’s results in Bronzeville and Pilsen are still underway, Melin is confident Edgewater’s roughly 56,000 residents will feel the program’s impact on the streets this summer.
“Our goal is really to spread the word about biking, walking and transit, to get people to think about it and get a dialogue started,” said Melin. “If more people start biking and walking as a result, that is wonderful. That’s really all we are looking for in the end.”
If you’re interested in becoming an outreach ambassador, email Maggie Melin at email@example.com. For more information about Go Edgewater, visit www.goedgewater.org.