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Slow Roll Chicago in Bogota

By 4 diciembre, 2015 No Comments

This past Monday, we sat down with Oboi Reed, co-founder of Slow Roll Chicago. Oboi is visiting Bogota and Medellin to learn about the relationship between bicycle planning and anti-poverty and anti-violence work in these cities.

Oboi Reed, co-fundador de Slow Roll Chicago, con su postal Despacio

Oboi Reed, co-founder of Slow Roll Chicago, with his Despacio postcard


What is Slow Roll Chicago? Where does the name come from?   

Slow Roll Chicago is a local bicycle movement whose mission is to connect a diverse group of people to use bikes and the activity of cycling as vehicles for social change, transforming lives and improving the condition of our communities. Our vision is equal bicycle usage across Chicago with respect to race, income level, and geography. We envision bikes as a form of transportation contributing to reducing violence, improving health, creating jobs, and ultimately making neighborhoods more livable. We primarily work in low- to moderate-income Black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of Chicago.

Slow Roll Chicago is actually part of the larger, global movement, which was founded in Detroit in 2010 to use bikes as a way to create community and allow people to re-imagine and re-experience the city of Detroit. We started the Chicago chapter in September of 2014. The name «Slow Roll» is sort of similar to what you described at Despacio. We focus on the experience, the journey, not the destination. The idea is for people to ride comfortably and peacefully, enjoying the moment and their surroundings.


What is your approach to bike advocacy and activism?   
Like I said, our focus is on bike equity in Chicago, on the equitable distribution of bicycle resources (bicycle infrastructure, programs, & funding). We believe that the people who need cycling the most (and will benefit most from it) should receive the most support. In the case of Chicago, these are low- to moderate-income communities of color. However, the focus of mainstream bicycle advocacy and culture in US cities is often on white, middle- to upper-income people.

We work in four activity areas. First, we have our «signature ride series», which are Wednesday night community bike rides, always neighborhood-based and always hosted in partnership with community organizations. Second, we conduct advocacy campaigns that highlight the importance of biking in communities of color as a way to combat violence, create jobs, and deal with health disparities. We see bikes as social vehicles that can help build trust and transform neighborhoods into places where people want to live, not just places to sleep. The third part of our work is our bikeSHFT youth leadership program, using BMX bikes and hip-hop to train the next generation of bicycle advocates and community organizers. Finally, we have specific projects we take on to help further our mission and vision. For example, we manage citywide community outreach for the Divvy For Everyone (D4E) program. Divvy is Chicago’s bike-share system and D4E is a program designed to make Divvy more affordable and accessible to lower-income people in Chicago.

Slow Roll y Despacio

Slow Roll and Despacio


How have you enjoyed your time in Bogotá? What have you learned?   
It’s been great! I’ve only seen a small part of Bogotá but it’s bustling and beautiful. I came to Colombia to learn about the relationship between bike advocacy and community-building, including anti-poverty and anti-violence work. I was especially interested in the ciclovía and other efforts to make cities healthier, safer and more liveable. It’s really inspiring to see an interest in mobility beyond cars. I am also interested in what Bogotá and Medellín have done to renew public spaces and how this has transformed neighborhoods.

There is a tendency in the U.S. to look to European cities like Copenhagen as models for bike planning and advocacy. But these cities don’t resonate with our target audience of low-income people of color. I think the people we work with at Slow Roll Chicago would be far more interested, both culturally and historically, in a place like Bogotá and in its social justice approach to biking. I would love for more people from Chicago and other U.S. cities to come visit Colombia as a model to increase and improve sustainable urban mobility. And, the extended Despacio community is now part of our Slow Roll Chicago family and you all are welcome to ride with us anytime in Chicago!


Learn more about Slow Roll Chicago at