Building Community with Slow Roll Rides

by David Maldonado, Development and Member Engagement Coordinator

Bikers at a Slow Roll

This summer, TLC-Smart Trips partnered with Cycles for Change and several other community groups to organize Slow Roll community bike rides in Saint Paul’s Frogtown, Rondo, and East Side neighborhoods.  With routes planned around cultural landmarks and ending with a shared meal catered by local restaurants, these rides are an opportunity to bring residents together to comfortably explore and experience their neighborhoods by bike.
Whether on quiet residential streets or busier roads built with cars in mind, the peace of mind provided by a large and visible group of riders acts as the beginning of a shift towards a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive bicycle culture.
Started almost by accident, Slow Rolls were originally born 7 years ago in Detroit. What first began as an excuse to ride bikes around the city with friends and sell t-shirts, then slowly morphed into a powerful social movement that has branched out to different cities across the country. After these inclusive, meandering bike rides started gaining traction among people across all ages and backgrounds, it became clear that there was an incredible potential to use this engagement for something much more meaningful.
Throughout the years with more and more participants after each ride, these Slow Rolls eventually grew and developed into the tool for bringing transportation justice to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods that we see today. Across the country, Slow Rolls have served as a way to organically engage and encourage residents to push local, state, and federal policy-makers to distribute bicycle infrastructure and resources to communities that haven’t seen enough investment.
Averaging between 30 and 50 riders per event here in Saint Paul, our relaxed evening rides helped connect hundreds of newcomers and long-time residents to each other and to the rich history and vibrant diversity of these neighborhoods. The emphasis on community serves to draw in people who don’t think of themselves as bicyclists or bike advocates and helps frame biking as a key part of a thriving community, rather than a hobby, or simply a form of travel or exercise.
With local leaders showcasing murals, parks, future placemaking projects, neighborhood initiatives, and even food served directly from youth-run community gardens, we’d like to take this time and space to give a huge thank you to everyone that made it all happen this summer. Hosts, partners, guest speakers, supporters, neighbors, and friends—THANK YOU! We hope to see you all again next summer.

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