Pictured above: Universidad Popular, an Acting Up award recipient, organized “Bike to Mole” last September. It took place on the last Saturday of September. Participants rode to UP´s yearly event, “La Feria del Mole.”

By Raquel Venado | May 14, 2018

Universidad Popular is no stranger to The Chicago Community Trust and On the Table. Having participated in On the Table since its launch in 2014, the community center’s discussion in 2017 focused on ways to bring the community together.

Located in Little Village, one of the largest Mexican-American communities in Chicago, Universidad Popular (UP) had received a donation of 15 bikes from Working Bikes. Then, thanks to an On the Table discussion and a subsequent Acting Up award of $2,000 from The Chicago Community Trust, the center was able to provide bike lessons to participants in its “UP to Youth” summer program.

Participating youth and their families came together twice a week to learn how to ride and take care of the bikes.

There’s a good amount of youth and adults who still don’t know how to ride them,” said Program Director Abraham Celio. “One of the things we really wanted to incorporate was active transportation and start working towards that.”

Pictured above: Universidad Popular used a $2,000 Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust to teach “UPtoYouth” students learn the proper care for bicycles during the winter months.

Pictured above: The Learning to Succeed Team (pictured above) helped write the Acting Up award for Universidad Popular. From left to right: Rocio Guerrero-Palomino, Jessica Rojas, Ricardo Valle, Anna Rojas and Cesar Lara.

Adult Education Coordinator Cesar Lara said they encouraged parents to bring their kids on their bikes to help them go around the block.

“Parents would teach them how to stop and listen to directions, and facilitators taught them all the signs prior to going out on their bicycles,” said Cesar. “We put together different activities to make sure everyone was involved in the organization.”

UP organized two events at the end of September to increase exposure between the Latino and African-American communities. The first one, called “We Bike Juntos,” (translated, “We Bike Together”) had 150 participants and was held during Labor Day weekend. It was a two-hour bike tour through South Lawndale and North Lawndale.  

“Participants were able to cross both communities and break down those invisible barriers that tend to separate us,” said Abraham.

The second event, “Bike to Mole,” had 50 participants, and it was a cultural ride that ended at UP’s yearly festival “La Feria del Mole.” Participants in both events were provided with bike safety materials, including helmets and bike locks.

For Youth Program Coordinator Karen Guadarrama, it was important to emphasize the biking culture.

It is a mode of transportation, and we want the youth to do more than take their bikes to the park for fun,” she said. “Once you grasp the rules of the road when biking, and you know all the safety measures, you are able to take that bike out and you can go anywhere.”

Pictured above: Universidad Popular, recipient of The Chicago Community Trust’s Acting Up award, organized  a two-hour bike event, “We Bike Juntos,” which gathered 150 people through a tour of North and South Lawndale on Labor Day weekend 2017.

UP’s work toward creating a biking community is ongoing. They took the bikes out during Spring Break and, along with the youth and their families, did maintenance repairs. They also paired with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), which organizes “toxic tours” of the neighborhood, so kids can see nearby industrial and toxic areas harmful to community residents. “It’s something we want the kids to be aware of and they wouldn’t have been able to see and know about these places if they hadn’t been on a bicycle,” says Karen.

UP is planning its next biking event for September 8.