That’s right…a bicycle movement. But this is not a movement in the sense of “get off your a—and get moving” (although that is a side benefit). This is a social movement in the purest form. It all started in Detroit in 2010. It aims to use bicycles as vehicles for social change. Their theory is that where there are cyclists (and equitable access to cycling resources), you see communities engage with each other more, economic development starts to rise, and violence begins to decline. And, of course, all three of these things nurture one another.
It starts with their Slow Roll Chicago. They ride every Wednesday evening from April to October, meeting at various locations & venues throughout Chicago and takes a unique route for each ride. And…they ride slowly. It is the best way to give riders a unique appreciation and perspective of neighborhoods. People who have only heard about neighborhoods like Pullman, Englewood, or Austin can see their beauty first hand.
One of the things that touched me the most about this fantastic group is that among the diverse group of riders are people who are seeing their own neighborhoods…really, truly seeing them…for their first time. And, of course, the positive energy and community driven atmosphere is what gets people engaged with their community.
Slow Roll has done the research that shows where there are cyclists, there is opportunity for economic development. And when root causes of violence are diminished (such as community engagement and economic decline), the violence itself can diminish. To that end, they are activists working to achieve equity in bicycle access, bicycle usage, bicycle infrastructure, bicycle safety, bicycle culture, and other community-related and bicycle-related resources in Chicago with particular focus on communities on the Southside and Westside. Ultimately, they work on making our communities healthier, more empowered, more economically viable, more socially cohesive, more ridable, and more livable. And in the process, they are improving health, and creating jobs in communities across Chicago.
But let’s face it. It’s about the fun. Slow Roll Chicago keeps people coming back and sharing the experience with their family and friends! Please take a few minutes to watch me chat with my dear friend Oboi Reed, who founded Slow Roll Chicago in 2014. And as Oboi would say “Let’s ride, right on!”