Biking for good: Slow Roll Chicago tours Roseland, Pullman, Beverly

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At their first ride, which was in October, Slow Roll Chicago pulled in some 50 riders to saunter through several South Side neighborhoods including Chatham and Kenwood. For their second ride, which is tomorrow, the Slow Rollers will start things off at a church in Roseland and ride through historic West Pullman neighborhood, stop through to the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, roll through the sprawling campus of Chicago State University, stop for another refreshment at the Michigan Avenue headquarters for an anti-violence group and then ride through Beverly before stopping for lunch at a local cafe on Western.

It’s all part of the fledgling group’s dedication to re-introducing Chicagoans to their own city and to encourage people to go outside and exercise. Tomorrow’s route is 14 miles – not long by a long shot – and since they “slow roll,” even the average couch potato can handle the pace.

“We ride slow because it’s more about the journey than it is the destination,” says Olatunji Oboi Reed, 40, one of the co-founders of the initiative, which sparked off in part by Slow Roll Detroit and its accompanying Apple campaign. Reed rides an old mountain bike he got years ago while living in Champaign-Urbana. “We ride to take it all in and to experience community from the state of a bicycle. And, we literally just started. We had our first ride on September 20.”

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Saturday’s bike route starts at the New Light of the World Ministries at 107th and Wentworth, where the church will provide light refreshment and cheers. Slow Roll connected with the pastor there, Kirk Bell, on the last bike ride. When they were trying to decide upon the location for the October ride, Bell offered his church as a starting point. From there, the group of 50 or so bikers will tour Roseland and Rosemoor, neighborhoods that as of late have been known for violence but historically were known for their solid middle class backgrounds. CSU, the stomping grounds for many of Chicago’s public school teachers, is a key part of the route. The picturesque campus has old trees and unique architecture.

The group will stop by the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, which houses one of the key stories of American history as it pertains to Chicago’s rail history, the Great Migration and the birth of the city’s middle class black population. (Plus, for you movie fanatics, West Pullman’s historical landmark buildings were the backdrop for the films “Road to Perdition” and “The Fugitive.” The architecture there also served as the inspiration for the cartoon movie “The Polar Express.”)

After touring West Pullman and Roseland, the group will head west to Beverly, where they will stop at the Hearty Cafe Pancake House and Restaurant on 96th and Western for brunch. Hyde Park’s Blackstone Bicycle is also providing bikes for those who don’t own any.

“I really think that with Slow Roll we can change the narrative and participate in various forms of economic development,” says Jamal Julien, 40, a childhood friend of Reed’s and a co-founder of the Chicago group. “At each Slow Roll we make sure that we support a local small business and with this particular ride, we chose to go through Beverly so that you can see the comparison and analysis with respect to municipal services, the streets and the roads. Then, we wind up at local proprietors to have lunch. I like the social aspect of it, the ability to network and meet different people.”

Here’s a bit of description from their e-newsletter:

With our vehicle, we ride to explore a vibrant complex history of the Historic Pullman community. We ride to discover the dynamic history of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) as told at the only Black labor history museum in the nation, the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, located right in the Historic Pullman community. The legacy of the BSCP significantly impacted organized labor in America and moved on to have a major influence on the modern day Civil Rights Movement. We ride to explore the origin of America’s Labor Day celebration at the Pullman State Historic Site and experience the wonderful texture of Chicago’s Southside thatincorporates a melting pot of history, culture, people, communities, organizations, architecture, andbeauty.

Slow Roll Chicago’s rides are free. All you have to do is show up (and perhaps check out their Facebook page for more details.) The November 15 Slow Roll will be on the West Side, and will be a joint Roll with the Chicago Police Department in an effort to create more friendship between the community and the police. The group is working to create a safer landscape for biking in Chicago, and also advocates that all bikers obey traffic laws. Detroit Slow Roll is coming to Chicago on November 9 for a joint bike ride. More details on the route will be announced in the coming weeks.

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