On Tuesday, October 13, president and co-founder of Slow Roll Chicago and PreventObesity.net Leader, Oboi Reed was recognized by the White House and the U.S. Department of Transportation at the 2015 White House Transportation Champions of Change. Reed was one of ten transportation innovators from across the country that was honored at this event for leading initiatives and transportation projects in their area.
Slow Roll is a movement that was started in Detroit, Michigan in 2010. In 2014, Olatunji Oboi Reed and Jamal Julien heard about the Detroit group, and founded a local chapter in Chicago. Slow Roll Chicago’s mission is to use this movement and bicycles as a catalyst for social change in the Chicago area and the state of Illinois. They focus on connecting a diverse group of people, transforming lives, and improving the conditions of communities through rides and related programs. “We cannot talk about biking separately from what is most important for people in our communities. When we have discussions about biking, we frame it in the context of having a positive effect for the community on reducing violence, improving health, and creating jobs,” said Reed.
“Being recognized by the White House is truly an honor and a privilege. It inspires me to work even harder to harness the transformative power of bicycles on transforming communities,” said Reed. "We consider our organization, our community bike rides as vehicles for social change. We use bicycles and our bike rides as mechanisms to improve the condition of our neighborhoods and to transform lives.”
Reed was recognized by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at the White House event. He also participated in a panel discussion, where Reed highlighted his unique efforts in advancing bicycle equity and active transportation in Chicago. Slow Roll Chicago uses a three-fold strategy: a signature ride series, which meets every Wednesday night; youth and family programs; and bicycle advocacy, advocating for bicycle equity in Chicago where bicycle resources are distributed equitably throughout the city to people who need them the most and can benefit the most.
"We want people to turn these neighborhoods into livable communities where they feel safe walking, biking, enjoying the neighborhood without the feeling of, 'If I go outside I'm not going to be safe,’” said Reed. “Our bicycle movement is all about creating a bike culture in our neighborhoods where the activity of cycling is perceived as social, interesting, fun, healthy, and cool. Through our rides, programs, and advocacy, we are breaking down barriers and old perceptions.”
“The most important things we do is to get people of color and low- to moderate-income people to participate, advocate on behalf of our neighborhoods, and advocate for the respect and preservation of our culture and history in these communities,” said Reed.
Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides grants to communities working to increase access to safe places for kids and families to be active. In August 2015, Slow Roll Chicago received funding to engage high school students in the Englewood and Back of the Yards neighborhoods in advocating for safe ways to bike to and from school. Slow Roll Chicago also advocates for expanding and improving the State of Illinois’ Safe Routes to School Program.