Beth and I bicycled to the White Sox game again yesterday, this time with our neighborhood friends Jim and Janet. The last time I posted about riding our tandem bicycle to a White Sox game, some people commented on how brave we were.
I’m not sure if they were referring to traffic or that somehow it’s unsafe down there on the South Side.
On count one, FYI: Bike lanes and a little forethought make the ride strikingly stress free and pleasant. Here in the South Loop, we can take the bike lanes—not protected but Wabash is pretty civilized—to 24th Street. We jog a block west to State, where we take it’s bike lanes to 26th street. At 26th there are bike lanes all the way to Wells. Head south on Wells and you go through a very pleasant, quiet neighborhood and you find yourself at the park before you know it.
I think it would be pretty easy to take the lakefront path to 31st and cut over there, too. But if you’re coming from the west, you’ll have to figure out your own route.
On the second point, the neighborhood near U.S. Cellular was for years considered dangerous—in particular, the area east of the park, on the east side of the Dan Ryan Expressway. That’s where hi-rise public housing projects once stood within a short walk from the park.
A lot of black people lived in those projects (though in the early days the projects were pretty racially diverse). Eventually, these buildings became crime-ridden, dangerous places. And that was enough to scare a lot of people—especially white people—out of heading to the park. (Even though, statistically, on game nights and days, area around the park was very safe). And some people were simply scared of black people.
The projects were torn down several years ago, which was not an entirely good thing, especially if you lived there, and it was in my view handled pretty poorly in many ways. That’s an important story worth telling at another time. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some people still have the notion that it’s scary around there.
I’m hear to tell you: It never really was. So get on your bike and come on down!