Olatunji Oboi Reed, a co-founder of Slow Roll Chicago, rode his transformative aspirations for bicycles from the streets of his home town to the White House.
His next stop will be the Wisconsin Bike Summit,in Appleton, on Nov. 6.
In one of the opening presentations in the Lawrence University March Campus Center, Reed will explain how bicycles have the power to create jobs, improve health and reduce crime – to fix chronic social problems that have existed for centuries.
Reed is part of an urban movement that started in Detroit and spread to 10 cities around the world. Organized “Slow Roll” rides that make bicycling appealing and transformative for minorities and low-income residents, people often excluded from the biking culture.
His work caught the attention of top officials in the U.S. Department of Transportation, who invited him to the White House earlier this month and honored him as a 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change.
As Reed will explain next week, the route to achieving Slow Roll’s aspirations starts with conversation – individual and national – from people meeting on the streets of Chicago to the government officials making decisions about street projects.
“I think the most important thing is to create a national conversation about creating bicycle equity as a policy priority for people who can benefit the most and need it the most,” Reed told the Wisconsin Bike Fed, which hosts the summit. “We want to create a national commitment to complete streets and safe routes to schools as a right for people in our cities, not a luxury.”
In Chicago, Reed and his Slow Roll crew host rides every Wednesday night in the low-income and largely minority neighborhoods on the south and west sides. Upwards of 200 people turn out to make new connections and enjoy the beauty of their neighborhoods.
And the ride from there to reduced violence, improved health and a better economy is not as long as one might imagine, as Reed explained.
Jobs: More bike-able neighborhoods attract more businesses that hire nearby residents.
Health: Using the bicycle for transportation has been shown to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases.
Crime: More cyclists on the streets results in more cohesion and trust in neighborhoods and puts more eyes and bodies in places where they deter crime.
“We’re confident that bikes are transformative, that these are vehicles for social change,” Reed said. “This is why we exist. This is why we ride.”
Reed’s visionary presentation will help kick off the Bike Summit at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 6. Click here for a complete list of the discussion topics and presenters, along with registration opportunities.