Slow Roll Chicago is a new addition to our city’s already impressive roster of community-based bicycling organizations. Inspired by a global bicycle movement that started in Detroit, the local chapter works to strengthen neighborhoods, connect diverse citizens, and transform communities through bicycling.
Last weekend, I met with co-founders Olatunji Oboi Reed and Jamal Julien to discuss how Slow Roll provides south and west side communities with a venue to explore their vibrant, beautiful streets.
Lorena Cupcake: How did you two get involved with Slow Roll?
Oboi Reed: Slow Roll is a global bicycling movement. It was founded as a movement in Detroit by Jason Hall and Mike MacKool in 2010. It started out small, with a few people riding on a weekly basis, and over the years it grew to several hundred, and eventually it grew to several thousand, and just earlier this year, it kind of caught fire in Detroit. Right now, to this day, the Slow Roll average in Detroit is three to four thousand people every Monday night.
Jamal and I, maybe about six months ago, found out about Slow Roll in Detroit via Facebook. We saw some videos and we just loved this idea of all of these thousands of people rolling slow through Detroit. It’s just an incredible sight to see, even just watching a video. We kind of fell in love with the concept, but for a while we just watched from afar.
One day, Jamal and I just both had this idea: we could bring this to Chicago. We reached out to the organizers, the founders of Slow Roll Detroit, and we started a conversation with them about potentially bringing it to Chicago. It took some work, some time, but after a lot of effort we made it happen. We did our first ride here in Chicago on September 20th, and here we are.
LC: Can you tell me about the Big Marsh Ride you did this morning?
OR: Today, Jamal and I rode with two people from SRAM, a global bike component manufacturing company headquartered here in Chicago. We worked very closely with Randy Neufeld, who’s the SRAM Cycling Fund director (he runs the company’s foundation), and Dan Stefiuk, the manager of road sports marketing at SRAM. We also had with us two people from the management team of Slow Roll Chicago, the team we call #SquadChicago. That includes David Peterson, the executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, and our good friend Vaughn Coney Varaski, who works for the railroad and is a longtime resident of Pullman.
This morning, the five of us rode on out to Big Marsh to explore the creation of Big Marsh into an eco-recreation park. A lot of resources and time and effort are going into that piece of land, and we wanted to just experience it for ourself. [We wanted] to really think about how Slow Roll Chicago could help with community engagement on that project, to ensure that black, brown, and low- to moderate-income people in Pullman, in Roseland, and surrounding communities are engaged in the planning process from the beginning. [They'll] feel connected to that process, feel a sense of ownership in Big Marsh, and really want to engage beyond just visiting once in a while.