Update from our Vision Zero Chicago Advocacy Team

Yesterday, several members of our advocacy team met with the City of Chicago Mayor's Office and the Chicago Department of Transportation. We presented at this meeting the linked document as our formal "Vision Zero asks" of the City of Chicago Mayor's Office

The City did not agree to our number one "ask" of removing police enforcement from Vision Zero in communities of color here in Chicago. The City feels like the role of the police in Vision Zero in communities of color is important and it will be unreasonable to excise their participation from the conversation around Vision Zero and from VZ enforcement-related events. They also feel like any potential risks to people of color as a result of police enforcement as a part of Vision Zero may be mitigated by thoughtful planning and done so in full coordination with the Chicago Police Department.

We asserted again our formal position around the removal of police enforcement from the Vision Zero Chicago Action Plan and implementation strategy in communities of color here in Chicago. We also asserted our intention to continue our advocacy work to this end. 

The City did verbally commit to assisting us with receiving citation data from CPD and crash data from IDOT for our research team to do their own analysis and present their initial findings by November. 

Regarding several other asks, the City agreed to reconvene after the three Vision Zero Westside Public Meetings next week to continue to explore where we may find common ground. 

This work does not stop until police enforcement in communities of color is removed from Vision Zero Chicago. Our new stretch goal for the Change.org petition is 1,000 people strong! 

Please share the Change.org petition far and wide with your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and within your broader networks. Especially, share this petition with people of color who live on the Westside or Southside of Chicago. 

Also, please encourage any folks you know from the Westside of Chicago to attend the City of Chicago's upcoming three Vision Zero Westside Public Meetings (flyer HERE) next week in the following neighborhoods:

  • North Lawndale: Tue, Sept 26 from 5:30-7:30pm at the Lawndale Community Academy, 3444 West Douglas Boulevard. 
  • Garfield Park: Wed, Sept 27 from 5:30-7:30pm at the Legler Branch Library, 115 South Pulaski Road. 
  • Austin: Sat, Sept 30 from 1-3pm at the Austin Town Hall Park Auditorium, 5610 West Lake Street.

Thank you, may the journey continue...

Oboi
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
773-916-6264
oboi@slowrollchicago.org

The Moment Within The Moment: "Same Ol' Nigger Shit"

(NOTE: Should you be sufficiently, understandably offended by the title of this article and have a desire to close it out, I encourage you to continue reading. I encourage you to fight through the discomfort of the title the same way people of color fight through daily the discomfort of racism's constant assault on our humanity. Fight with the same indomitable spirit of people impoverished in Chicago who still smile, love and make something from nothing. For those new to our Vision Zero advocacy work, for full context, please check out these previous articles HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE as well as our Vision Zero Chicago Live Social Media Video Chat.)

Sign the Change.org Petition and Scroll to End of Article for the Call to Action.

From the desk of:


Olatunji Oboi Reed
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
Oboi@SlowRollChicago.org
773-916-6264

Dear Slow Roll Chicago Community:

There's a moment within a moment. The latter moment is longer and broader. The former is brief, perhaps, even fleeting.

The latter moment began centuries ago, when people of African and Indigenous descent first experienced White Supremacy. This moment manifested globally through colonialism and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. The moment manifested here in the US through the institution of chattel slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, defacto segregation, redlining and all of the permutations of structural, systemic and institutional racism.

The former moment are those times today or in our recent past when we are reminded of the continued existence of White Supremacy as an ingrained institution around the world and in our country, continuing to adversely impact the descendants of those same African and Indigenous people who were the first to encounter White Supremacy. Today, this moment manifest globally through US trade policies, international interventionism, denial of climate change, war and the rise of President Trump. The moment manifest in cities, today, through top-down policymaking, paternalism, disinvestment and inequity. The moment manifest in neighborhoods here in the US through police violence, mass incarceration, healthcare disparities, unemployment, poverty, poor quality of life, lack of mobility, lack of affordable housing, lack of access to healthy foods, underfunded & under-performing schools, interpersonal violence, traffic violence and all of the transmutations of injustice experienced by those same people of African and Indigenous descent. 

The latter moment for me personally was my time growing up with my best friend and older brother, separated by only eleven months, Khari on the Southside of Chicago. Our parents divorced in the late 70s, when my brother and I were toddlers. While my father was always fully present in our lives, my lovely mom had primary custody of us through our middle school years. My mom struggled financially as a single parent, raising two rambunctious Black boys in the Chatham neighborhood here on the Southside of Chicago. My mom sacrificed her entire life from the time she became pregnant with Khari until we were adults and no longer under her financial responsibility. She gave us everything she had and more in order that we grow up into successful Black men. She flooded us with pure, unconditional love and gave us every ounce of herself that we may not struggle like her and that we may not become victims.

My dear father grew up rumble tumble on the rough streets of Gary, Indiana, Cleveland and the Westside of Chicago. In his late-teens, he embraced Black Nationalism and the Black Power Movement, actively fighting against White Supremacy and working to improve the condition of the Black community. My mom, recognizing her own limitations in raising Black boys in Chicago in the mid-80's, freely handed us over to my father in our middle school years. He became our custodial parent and raised us in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. His parenting style was shaped by his personal worldview, his rugged upbringing and the assault he realized daily at the hands of White Supremacy. He loved us and we always knew this love was there. However, expressing his love for Khari and I was not a priority. His priority was squarely on ensuring his two Black sons did not become victims. His parenting style was shaped by a sense of enlarged power and relentless discipline, in a sincere effort to protect his Black boys from being victimized in the street, in school, at work and in society.

Both my parents, each with their own respective style, most importantly worked to bring about our mere survival in this society and next importantly worked to position us for the best opportunity to become the proud, strong Black men they each envisioned. My mother raised us to be lovers. My father raised us to be warriors. 

Oboi with Mom and Pops.

Oboi with Mom and Pops.

The latter moment for me personally, continued into my high school years and the accompanying, evolving, dynamic nature of the relationship between me and my brother. By high school, Khari and I's paths began to diverge, with Khari attending Whitney Young High School in the Near Westside neighborhood and me attending Lindblom Technical High School in Englewood. Me as a Freshman and Khari as Sophomore in high school is where I began to feel like I was losing my brother. Up until this point, Khari is the one person I shared everything with, nearly every experience we shared together - bed, clothes, pain, love, anger, joy - all of it, we went through it together. Now, we both have our own set of friends and we are both experiencing life very differently. Khari's head is down in the books, focusing on the importance of school. My head is up in the sky, focusing on the new, fun social experiences of high school. Then, around my Junior year of high school, Khari made a forced, yet justifiable decision to move out of my father's home, returning to live with my mother.

Where previously, Khari did what he could to protect his younger brother from my father's wrath, he is now gone and I am left to fend for myself. An already fractured relationship between my father and I became even more fractured between us during those ensuing high school years. I lashed voraciously against him and everything he represented, our relationship becoming entirely tenuous and eventually severely ruptured. At this time, I felt like I lost my brother and my father. The only people I knew I had for sure was my mom, my Slow Roll Chicago co-founder Jamal (whom I first met in fourth grade) and a lifelong brotherhood we joined together during our Sophomore year at Lindblom. I wanted to make my own way in life, different from Khari's focus, without my mother's love and eschewing my father's discipline. My brother, the person who knows me the best, always believed in me, even at my lowest points in life. My mom and my pops certainly feared death or jail were looming for me, and they were correct in believing this was a tangible possibility.

The moment within the moment is real for me and it's painful to relive through these words. That former moment is seared into my consciousness, recalled in vivid color and emotional detail like it was yesterday. This brief, fleeting moment within the longer, broader moment of growing up Black on the Southside of Chicago in the 80s and 90s, manifested for me personally one mundane night while I was a Senior in high school.

My mom raised Khari and I, since we were in Kindergarten, in the same home on the same block in the Chatham neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. It was a safe, quiet and close-knit block. Having been raised on the block, practically my entire life, I knew nearly all of my neighbors.

Oboi and Jamal at The White House for The 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change Award Ceremony.

Oboi and Jamal at The White House for The 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change Award Ceremony.

None of this mattered on this one night. Myself, Jamal and several members of our brotherhood (all of whom I consider brothers to this day) were hanging out one night in front of my mother's building and gathered around one of my brother's cars. Yes, we were loud and clowning around, because we were uproarious and loved to have fun. No, we were not drinking, smoking, carrying guns or engaging in any other illegal activities. As we were talking, laughing, chanting, stepping and all the other social activities befitting a boisterous group of male teenagers, we began hearing the faint sounds of police sirens. We brushed it off, we hear police sirens all the time in our neighborhoods. It was nothing new and it was unworthy of our attention, for we had more important things to attend to that night. We continued what we were doing, as the sirens became louder and obviously closer. Suddenly, we see flashing police lights at the end of the block. We turn around and see similar police lights at the other end of the block. We immediately understand there are several police cars, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, racing in both directions on a one-way street toward us as we stand frozen around my brother's car in front of my mother's home. Within seconds, about four police cars had descended on us. Like something out of a well choreographed movie, before the the police cars even came to a full stop, their doors were opening and about 6-8 police officers were jumping out with their guns drawn on me and my brothers (separate from my mom, the only people I felt like I had in life who I could count on no matter what). 

We stood there, confused, shocked and scared, as the officers quickly approached on foot, guns drawn on all of us. Perhaps, a couple seconds tick off, then an older Black male officer yells out at the top of his voice, "Same ol' nigger shit". As me and my brothers stood there, the officers search us and quickly realize their level of aggression and tactical readiness was completely unwarranted. With little conversation and no acknowledgement of their having put all of us at risk and within a matter of minutes, like the experience was all a dream, the officers were back in their squad cars rolling away.

In front of my mom's home, on the very block I was raised on, in Chicago, a city I dearly love, to that officer who yelled out, I was nothing more than a nigger, worthy of the loaded gun he was pointing in my direction. To all the other officers, me and all of my brothers were niggers that night. And, they all believed their guns pointing at us was necessarily deserved.

Now, read this paragraph, then close your eyes and experience how easy it is for you to see this reality played out with a different ending. Imagine my hotheaded self jumping into the face of the officer who had just let us all know we were we all "niggers doing nigger shit". Imagine my brother Jamal, who has always been comfortable challenging authority, "mouthing off" at one of the officers. Or, imagine my brother Nate instinctively reaching into the car to grab his wallet.

Over the past several days, I've cried many times imagining what may have been. One of us may have been abused that night. One of us may have been arrested and convicted. One of us may have gone to jail. One of us may have been shot. And, yes, one of us was the twitch of a finger on the gun's trigger away from being killed unjustly at the hands of the Chicago Police Department. 

The advocacy work we do on Vision Zero Chicago is rooted in our commitment to dismantling structural racism in our society and ensuring my nephews and niece and all the young brothers and sisters coming up never have to experience what I experienced that night, or worse.

Oboi (left) with Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founder Jamal Julien.

Oboi (left) with Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founder Jamal Julien.

Here we are, many centuries later, experiencing the same White Supremacy and structural racism first endured by our ancestors. Here we are, nearly 30 years later, experiencing the same White Supremacy and structural racism which gave way to guns being pointed at us that night, continuing to give way to Black, Brown and Indigenous people being murdered unjustly at the hands of the police, here in Chicago and around the US.

For those among us who still doubt the existence of White Supremacy, structural racism, inequity, corruption, overpolicing and implicit bias in the Chicago Police Department and other City of Chicago departments, this is all for you:

In the city I love, I am still considered a nigger by many. I am considered a nuisance, actively attempting to disrupt the City of Chicago's beautiful, equitable and well thought out Vision Zero Chicago Action Plan, dutifully crafted by mostly well meaning White people who don't live or work in our neighborhoods and without consultation from the very people of color impacted by Vision Zero here in Chicago.

The Vision Zero Chicago Action Plan is not beautiful, it's ugly because it explicitly states on pages 44 and 48 that police traffic enforcement is part of the plan. The plan is ugly because it does not explicitly acknowledge the role of racism in our city toward causing traffic violence, continuing to only address the symptoms while putting an out-sized burden on people assaulted daily by racism in Chicago. The plan is ugly because the process of developing the plan was inequitable, where Vision Zero targeted neighborhoods were not engaged in the plan's development prior to the plan's release. The plan is ugly because it is another, consistent example of the City of Chicago's tireless commitment to harmful, top down policy-making and paternalism. The plan is ugly because it is owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and given the existence of racism in City of Chicago departments, including CDOT, Vision Zero should be owned by the people and organizations being impacted by the Vision Zero action plan and implementation strategy at the neighborhood level. The plan is ugly, biased, inequitable, paternalistic and potentially deadly in communities of color.

All this said, the City of Chicago, Mayor's Office and CDOT enjoy my full support on Vision Zero reducing traffic deaths to zero within 10 years, by primarily focusing on the nationally-accepted Vision Zero strategies of Engineering (redesign streets to make them safer) and Education (implement a compelling, comprehensive educational campaign to teach and inspire people to drive safer). While police should continue to enforce citywide traffic laws, I do not support the role of the Chicago Police Department (where racism, implicit bias, inequity, corruption and overpolicing are all present) in executing a police traffic enforcement strategy as part of Vision Zero Chicago in communities of color.

I am not a nigger. I am a strong, proud, powerful Black man. And, all of the brothers and sisters who stand with me are strong, proud, powerful Black, Brown and Indigenous men and women. We are organizers, advocates and activists. We love our neighborhoods and we love our people. We have faith and we believe intensely in our own capacity and all of our collective will to make the world a better place for those descendants of men and women who first encountered White Supremacy on the shores of Africa, North America and around the world. 

We will do the work to ensure the City of Chicago will get Vision Zero right, implemented in a manner where this important policy and plan will do more good than harm in communities of color here in Chicago.

We will do the work to ensure the City of Chicago remove police traffic enforcement from its Vision Zero action plan and implementation strategy. 

We will do the work to ensure the ownership of Vision Zero Chicago rests with the residents, stakeholders and community-based organizations who live and work everyday in the Vision Zero targeted neighborhoods on the Westside and Southside of Chicago, nearly all of whom are primarily low- to moderate-income communities of color.

Or, this strong, proud, powerful Black Man, from the Chatham neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago, will die trying.

The We Ride Juntos: Promoting Safe Neighborhoods ride in the Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago.

The We Ride Juntos: Promoting Safe Neighborhoods ride in the Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago.

Here's our Call to Action:

  • Sign on to our Change.org petition and share with your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and others in your network. 
  • Attend the City of Chicago's three Vision Zero Westside Public Meetings next week and recruit your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and others in your network to join us in expressing our concerns with Vision Zero as well as raising our voices together in solidarity to call for the City of Chicago to explicitly remove police traffic enforcement from the Vision Zero action plan and implementation strategy in communities of color here in Chicago. Check out the City of Chicago's Vision Zero website and their flyer for more information about the upcoming three public meetings. These three public meetings will all be held next week in the following three Westside neighborhoods:
    • North Lawndale: Tue, Sept 26 from 5:30-7:30pm at the Lawndale Community Academy, 3444 West Douglas Boulevard. 
    • Garfield Park: Wed, Sept 27 from 5:30-7:30pm at the Legler Branch Library, 115 South Pulaski Road.
    • Austin: Sat, Sept 30 from 1-3pm at the Austin Town Hall Park Auditorium, 5610 West Lake Street.
  • Share this article via your website, email newsletter and with your internal and external networks, along with our previous articles HERE and HERE as well as our Vision Zero Chicago Live Social Media Video Chat
  • Share this article on social media, tagging "Slow Roll Chicago" (@slowrollchicago) and "Olatunji Oboi Reed" (@theycallmeOboi). Slow Roll Chicago has a social media presence on Facebook (Page Group), TwitterInstagramTumblr and YouTube.
  • Sign up for the Slow Roll Chicago Email Newsletter to stay updated about our rides, events and advocacy work.
  • Sign up to volunteer with Slow Roll Chicago. 
  • Volunteer to join Rutgers Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor Charles Brown and our research team currently in the process of executing a comprehensive Vision Zero and transportation equity data analysis, research study.
  • Assist with identifying and securing funding for Slow Roll Chicago's comprehensive Vision Zero and transportation equity data analysis, research study, as requested by myself and Slow Roll Chicago and led by Rutgers Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor Charles Brown. Please contact me directly to discuss this particular Call to Action in more detail.
  • Join me, Slow Roll Chicago and equity advocates from around the world at the PolicyLink Equity Summit 2018 here in Chicago from April 11-13, 2018.
  • Donate to Slow Roll Chicago, financially supporting our work to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable bicycle culture in Chicago. Slow Roll Chicago is intensely focused on the role of bicycles, as a form of effective transportation, contributing to reducing violence, improving health, creating jobs and ultimately making our neighborhoods more liveable. Your financial support helps us push forward our bicycle equity and Vision Zero advocacy work, as well as our vision, mission and programmatic priorities, all within a challenging local context. 

Mount up and let's ride together for freedom.

Warmly,

Olatunji Oboi Reed

Olatunji Oboi Reed
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
773-916-6264
oboi@slowrollchicago.org 
Website Twitter Instagram Snapchat Tumblr Facebook LinkedIn 

Sign the Change.org Petition and Scroll Back Up for the Call to Action.

Vision Zero Must Address Structural Racism as a Cause of Traffic Violence

Chicago Reporter: Emanuel shuts out community role in police reform—again

And, y'all still want Chicago Police Department's traffic enforcement as a part of Vision Zero Chicago in our neighborhoods? We'll pass...
http://chicagoreporter.com/emanuel-shuts-out-community-role-in-police-reform-again/

#nopolice #visionzerochicago

Video From Our Live Social Media Video Chat on the Topics of Active Transportation Alliance and Vision Zero Chicago

Check out the full video from our live social media video chat on the topics of Active Transportation Alliance, Vision Zero Chicago and national Vision Zero strategies. Check it out and let's ride...

Today (Thur, 8/31) at 10:30am CT / 11:30am ET: Vision Zero Chicago Live Social Media / Video / Text Chat

Join me for a Vision Zero Chicago live social media Q&A video/text chat today, Thursday, August 31 from 10:30am-11:30am CT (11:30am-12:30pm ET).

This live video/text chat will serve as an opportunity for us to all collectively reflect and debrief from our experiences over the past few weeks regarding Vision Zero Chicago and the now cancelled Active Transportation Alliance VZ summit.

We will also use this live video chat as an opportunity to answer questions and share lessons learned during the process.

We will be live, simultaneously, on the following 3 platforms...

Periscope
https://www.pscp.tv/theycallmeOboi/follow

Instagram Live:
https://www.instagram.com/theycallmeoboi/

Facebook Live:
https://www.facebook.com/live/theycallmeOboi

Follow Slow Roll Chicago (@slowrollchicago), Olatunji Oboi Reed (@theycallmeOboi) and our website blog (slowrollchicago.org/blog) for up to the minute details as our video/text chat approaches. 

Also, text me at 773-916-6264 or email me at Oboi@slowrollchicago.org.

Thanks, let's go...

Olatunji Oboi Reed
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
773-916-6264
@theycallmeOboi
Oboi@slowrollchicago.org

Vision Zero Chicago Live Social Media / Video / Text Chat

Join me for a Vision Zero Chicago live social media Q&A video/text chat tomorrow, Thursday, August 31 from 10:30am-11:30am CT (11:30am-12:30pm ET).

This live video/text chat will serve as an opportunity for us to all collectively reflect and debrief from our experiences over the past few weeks regarding Vision Zero Chicago and the now cancelled Active Transportation Alliance VZ summit.

We will also use this live video chat as an opportunity to answer questions and share lessons learned during the process.

We will be live, simultaneously, on the following 3 platforms...

Periscope
https://www.pscp.tv/theycallmeOboi/follow

Instagram Live:
https://www.instagram.com/theycallmeoboi/

Facebook Live:
https://www.facebook.com/live/theycallmeOboi

Follow Slow Roll Chicago (@slowrollchicago), Olatunji Oboi Reed (@theycallmeOboi) and our website blog (slowrollchicago.org/blog) for up to the minute details as our video/text chat approaches. 

Also, text/call me at 773-916-6264 or email me at Oboi@slowrollchicago.org.

Thanks, let's go...

Olatunji Oboi Reed
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
773-916-6264
@theycallmeOboi
Oboi@slowrollchicago.org

A Matter of Life or Death: Vision Zero Chicago

This is a matter of life or death.
— Charles Brown, MPA, Senior Researcher & Adjunct Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Charles Brown.

Charles Brown.

I recently spoke via phone with Rutgers University Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor Charles Brown regarding Vision Zero Chicago and Slow Roll Chicago's Bicycle Equity Statement of Principle document (draft version). During our conversation, Mr. Brown made a clear, forceful case for the Vision Zero Chicago Action Plan being a matter of life or death. He explained that the process of developing, as well as implementing, Chicago's Vision Zero (VZ) policy and plan will determine the degree to which VZ will have an adverse or beneficial impact on low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities of color on the South and West sides of Chicago. Mr. Brown described the City of Chicago's commitment, or lack thereof, to justice and equity as key factors in VZ taking more Black and Brown lives than it saves.

Slow Roll Chicago family member and dear sister Marian Hayes.

Slow Roll Chicago family member and dear sister Marian Hayes.

The Slow Roll Chicago community, sadly, knows all too well the life or death nature of reckless driving behaviors in Chicago. In January of 2016, we lost our beloved Slow Roll Chicago family member and dear sister Marian Hayes to a fatal car crash, while she was walking near the intersection of 87th Street and Kedzie Avenue in the Ashburn neighborhood on the Southwest side of Chicago. After riding with us for the first time, Marian immediately embraced me and our movement. She always brought her beautiful smile, warm energy and helpful spirit to our rides and our work. Marian inspired us to prioritize the role of history, culture, style and art in our rides. I personally dedicated our 2016 ride season to my friend and sister Marian Hayes. The fatal traffic crash that took Marian away from her family and away from our movement continues to reverberate through our organization, nearly two years later.

Oboi Reed at The White House, accepting The 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change Award from former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Oboi Reed at The White House, accepting The 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change Award from former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

As a grassroots bicycle movement, born from Chicago's marginalized, LMI communities of color, myself and my Slow Roll Chicago co-founder Jamal Julien, as well as many of our members, have either directly experienced or witnessed over-policing, police abuse or worse, all at the hands of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Many of you reading this article right now have seen the videos and read the articles documenting CPD's horrible track record of unjust murders, civil rights abuses and rampant corruption. Earlier this year, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) announced their findings of its investigation into the Chicago Police Department and publicly released its accompanying investigation report. Even with the new United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions in office, there is a real possibility that CPD will come under a federal court-enforceable consent decree with the USDOJ. In 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and, in 2017, CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson both publicly acknowledged the existence of racism within the Chicago Police Department, City Hall and other city agencies.

We are in a time where we know that the practice of over-penalizing people for traffic offences does little to deter people from repeating chargeable driving behaviors. Any law that targets poor people for profit is unjust and unconscionable. The end result is further mass incarceration of an already marginalized people. This only further harms communities in a vulnerable position. Specifically, low- to moderate-income, working class, Black and Brown communities become the most susceptible to egregious, racist police interactions, that lead to a greater inequity in arrests and convictions, further breaking apart disenfranchised families. When poor communities, already struggling economically, are targeted for increased traffic enforcement, this will likely reduce people’s physical and social mobility, further perpetuating the concentration of poverty and violence.
— Kofi Ademola, Organizer, Black Lives Matter Chicago
Kofi Ademola.

Kofi Ademola.

Yes, The Slow Roll Chicago Bicycle Movement entirely agrees with Professor Brown. Vision Zero Chicago, especially its police traffic enforcement strategy, and the City of Chicago's commitment to equity and justice are all matters of life or death here in Chicago.

Approximately two weeks ago, on August 7, the Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans) here in Chicago announced their Vision Zero Chicago summit via email and on its website. The summit's roll out strategy was fundamentally flawed because it was not sincerely, deliberately inclusive of the very people VZ is targeting at the neighborhood level. Active Trans did not engage people of color (POC), LMI residents, community-based organizations and other stakeholders who live or work in the VZ-targeted neighborhoods in the development and the planning of the summit, prior to its public announcement. In addition, the summit included several elements which served as significant barriers (cost, time, day, location and marketing) for POC and LMI people in the VZ-targeted neighborhoods from fully participating in the summit.

Active Trans is making a positive step towards equity in postponing their planned Vision Zero summit in order to get more input from advocates representing communities of color and low-to-moderate income communities. It’s critically important that the communities who will be most affected by Vision Zero efforts be represented at every step of the way in creating and implementing the details of this program. It’s also essential to make extensive efforts to get community participation in public meetings once those meetings happen.
— Anne Alt, President of the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, President of Chicago Cycling Club and Former Board Member of the Active Transportation Alliance
Oboi Reed.

Oboi Reed.

After the summit's original announcement and my public statements challenging the summit's lack of inclusion, I immediately called for Active Trans to cancel their planned summit. I requested that Active Trans go back to the drawing board to create an event that would be more inclusive and accessible. Next, I wrote an article on our website, detailing the inherent flaws in the Active Trans summit and the multiple reasons why we were calling for the summit to be canceled. Days later, there was a growing chorus of local and national advocates, organizers and concerned citizens who vocally supported our position on the summit and explicitly supported our call for Active Trans to cancel the summit. Nearly a week and a half after the original announcement of the VZ summit, the Active Transportation Alliance formally, publicly announced, via email and their website blog, that they were officially cancelling the summit. 

Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed at The A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in the Pullman neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago.

Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed at The A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in the Pullman neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago.

We readily acknowledge Active Trans Executive Director Ron Burke and their senior management team for doing the right thing here by canceling the summit. We recognize this fundraising event was logistically difficult to cancel due to a meeting room being reserved, attendees purchasing registrations, sponsorships having been sold and having high-level policymakers confirmed to speak at the summit.

However, this summit should have never went forward in the first place without the ownership and investment of people who live and work in the VZ-targeted neighborhoods. POC and LMI residents should have been engaged, from the beginning, in developing and planning a summit which respects, elevates and responds to their needs, concerns and voices. While the Active Trans VZ summit has now been canceled, a systemic blind spot and pervasive bias still persists within the organization. Its leadership was willing to move forward with the summit, even after we called for the summit to be canceled and pointed out the dangerous flaws within their lack of inclusion. For these reasons and more, we advocate for a transformative restructuring at Active Trans, where an authentic commitment to equity is explicit, deliberate and public. Further, we advocate for Active Trans to sincerely and dutifully operationalize its commitment to equity from the board level to the staff level, from inclusive community engagement practices to staffing diversity, from priority projects to policies around how resources are distributed and from the removal of implicit bias to the dismantling of a dismissive culture toward LMI communities of color from within the organization. 

For Vision Zero to work, all members of the affected communities must have a voice in the entire planning and implementation process. Active Trans has correctly canceled their previously scheduled Vision Zero Summit, now recognizing as much. They are to be applauded for continuing to be a great, mature organization that cares deeply for all people that bike.
— Brendan H. Kevenides, Attorney at Freeman Kevenides Law Firm and Member of the Active Transportation Alliance Board of Advisors
Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed.

Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed.

In my phone call with Professor Brown, he discussed two primary problems with the mainstream, European approach to executing Vision Zero strategies in US cities:

  1. Lack of Focus on the Root Cause of Injustice: The root cause of injustice in US society is structural racism. Many local and state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and mainstream Vision Zero advocates are solely focused on the symptoms produced as a result of the root cause instead of focusing on the root cause of structural racism itself. Structural racism causes communities of color to be marginalized and disenfranchised. Structural racism causes communities of color to be disproportionately, adversely impacted by a poor quality of life, interpersonal violence, healthcare disparities, unemployment, poverty, mass incarceration, access to affordable housing, access to healthy foods, access to quality education and access to physical and social mobility. All of these symptoms contribute to the relatively high rate of fatal car crashes in LMI communities of color and all of these symptoms are caused by structural racism in our society.
  2. Lack of Authentic, Sincere Community Engagement: The difficult truth is that many transportation professionals, mainstream VZ advocates and DOTs simply don't value or respect the voices of POC and LMI residents in communities of color where VZ is being implemented. This is what led Active Trans to announce a VZ summit mostly impacting LMI communities of color with no prior engagement on planning the summit with the VZ-targeted neighborhoods. This is also what led the City of Chicago to release a VZ policy and plan without a preceding, comprehensive community engagement process to help develop and implement the plan together in concert with the community. The same is largely true for many cities across the US, implementing VZ at the neighborhood level. We are largely considered the consumers of the VZ product. In fact, we should be the owners and deliverers of the VZ product in our neighborhoods. We are the proper experts on what is needed in our communities in order for us to feel safe and be safe. No DOT and no advocacy organization should ever begin the process of developing or implementing a VZ plan without an authentic community engagement process where residents and stakeholders invest in the plan and take ownership of its execution. Anything less is dismissive, disrespectful and potentially deadly.
Oboi Reed.

Oboi Reed.

Where do we as a local and national VZ, equity and justice community go from here? What are our next steps to ensuring the City of Chicago implements VZ in a manner in our neighborhoods that does more good than it does harm.

Here are our tentative, initial next steps:

  • I will host a live social media Q&A video/text chat on Thursday, August 31 from 10:30-11:30am CT. This video/text chat will serve as an opportunity for us to all collectively reflect and debrief over the past two weeks. I will also use this opportunity to answer questions and offer lessons learned that were gleaned during this process. Please follow us via our website blog and on social media to receive the up to the minute details for our video/text chat.
  • Slow Roll Chicago, Go Bronzeville, transportation advocates of color, and other stakeholders in the VZ-targeted neighborhoods will explore the potential of convening a broader, community-based VZ forum to receive feedback and input on the VZ plan directly from neighborhood residents, in partnership with the City of Chicago and other potential community partners. 
  • Slow Roll Chicago, Go Bronzeville, transportation advocates of color, and other stakeholders in the VZ-targeted neighborhoods will explore the potential of engaging with the City of Chicago Mayor's Office, Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Police Department, Chicago Department of Public Health and other city agencies to take ownership of VZ's development and implementation in LMI communities of color on the South and West sides of Chicago.
  • Slow Roll Chicago will facilitate a comprehensive Vision Zero and transportation equity data analysis, research project. Given his extensive experience working with POC and LMI communities, we asked that Rutgers Senior Researcher and Professor Charles Brown lead this research study. This project will utilize both data analysis and surveys to better understand the root cause of transportation-related inequities and injustices experienced by POC and LMI residents in communities of color on the South and West sides of Chicago.
Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed at Nat King Cole Park in the Chatham neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago.

Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed at Nat King Cole Park in the Chatham neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago.

How may you continue to help support our advocacy work and our next steps with regards to VZ and transportation equity here in Chicago?

Here's our Call to Action:

Oboi Reed at the Big Marsh Bicycle Park on the far Southeast side of Chicago.

Oboi Reed at the Big Marsh Bicycle Park on the far Southeast side of Chicago.

  • Share this article via your website, email newsletter and with your internal and external networks.
  • Share this article on social media, tagging "Slow Roll Chicago" (@slowrollchicago) and "Olatunji Oboi Reed" (@theycallmeOboi). Slow Roll Chicago has a social media presence on Facebook (Page & Group), Twitter, InstagramTumblr and YouTube.
  • Sign up for the Slow Roll Chicago Email Newsletter to stay updated about our rides, events and advocacy work.
  • Sign up to volunteer with Slow Roll Chicago. 
  • Volunteer to join Professor Charles Brown's Vision Zero and transportation equity data analysis, research project team.
  • Assist with identifying and securing funding for Slow Roll Chicago's comprehensive Vision Zero and transportation equity data analysis, research project, as requested by myself and Slow Roll Chicago and led by Rutgers Senior Researcher and Professor Charles Brown. Please contact me directly to discuss this particular Call to Action in more detail. 
  • Join me, Slow Roll Chicago and equity advocates from around the world at the PolicyLink Equity Summit 2018 here in Chicago from April 11-13, 2018.
  • Donate to Slow Roll Chicago, financially supporting our work to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable bicycle culture in Chicago. Slow Roll Chicago is intensely focused on the role of bicycles, as a form of effective transportation, contributing to reducing violence, improving health, creating jobs and ultimately making our neighborhoods more liveable. Your financial support helps us push forward, within a challenging local context, our mission, vision and priorities. 
Oboi Reed speaking at the Despacio NGO in Bogota, Colombia while on Slow Roll Chicago's Liveable Cities Study Tour: Bogota & Medellin, Colombia.

Oboi Reed speaking at the Despacio NGO in Bogota, Colombia while on Slow Roll Chicago's Liveable Cities Study Tour: Bogota & Medellin, Colombia.

A heartfelt thank you and proud salute to all of the local and national advocates who supported our call for Active Trans to cancel their VZ summit. Our collective voices are powerful and together we accomplished what many said was impossible. I also want to thank the PolicyLink Transportation Equity Caucus and the National Bike Equity Network for raising your voices together with ours to shift how mainstream transportation organizations engage with communities of color. I especially want to thank my dear sister Tamika L. Butler (Executive Director at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust) and my good brother Ronnie Matthew Harris (Visionary Lead with Go Bronzeville) for their relentless strategizing, advocacy and late night phone calls. While Active Trans cancelling their VZ summit is a relatively small step in the right direction, it is something we accomplished together and we should all be proud of the work that brought us here to this moment. 

Slow Roll Chicago is a bicycle movement.

We ride bicycles to make our neighborhoods better.

This is why we exist. This is why we ride.

Mount up and let's ride for equity, justice and freedom...

Warmly,

Oboi Reed

 

 

Olatunji Oboi Reed
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
773-916-6264
oboi@slowrollchicago.org 
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Snapchat | Tumblr | Facebook | LinkedIn 

    Active Transportation Alliance's Flawed Strategy in Rolling Out its Vision Zero Summit in Chicago

    This is Oboi Reed, Co-Founder of the Slow Roll Chicago bicycle movement, writing here. To learn more about Slow Roll Chicago and our position on equity, please check out the Our Story section of the website and our Bicycle Equity Statement of Principle (draft version) document.

    I am writing now with regards to Vision Zero here in Chicago and the Active Transportation Alliance's (Active Trans) recently announced Vision Zero Summit here in Chicago. A recent Streetsblog Chicago article shares some insight into our position on Vision Zero in general and, specifically, our concerns with Active Transportation Alliance's flawed strategy in rolling out their upcoming summit. 

    Our specific concerns with the summit are as follows:

    • According to the recently released City of Chicago's Vision Zero Chicago Action Plan, nearly all of the targeted Vision Zero (VZ) neighborhoods are low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities of color on the Southside and Westside of Chicago. 
    • The City of Chicago's Vision Zero policy and plan does in fact include the component of Enforcement, in addition to Education and Engineering, as part of its comprehensive VZ strategy.
    • Active Trans is including in their VZ summit's agenda the topic of "Fair & Effective Enforcement". 
    • Active Trans did not engage with any people of color (POC), LMI residents, community-based organizations, community leaders or other stakeholders who live and work in the VZ targeted neighborhoods in the process of developing and planning their VZ summit.
    • The VZ summit is being hosted in downtown Chicago on a weekday from 8am to 12pm, with attendance registration costing an exorbitant $50. These factors clearly pose as significant barriers to LMI/POC fully participating in the summit.
    • With the original email invite for the Active Trans VZ summit there was no mention of the availability of scholarships for LMI/POC. Shortly after the original email invite, Active Trans did send an email offering scholarships to a select list of their community partners. However, the vast majority of LMI/POC in the VZ-targeted neighborhoods are not aware of the summit nor aware of the availability of scholarships.
    • Several high level policy-makers (CDOT Commissioner, IDOT COO, National Safety Council & AAA reps, etc.) are confirmed to attend and speak at the summit. The summit is clearly targeting for attendance the professional transportation sector and the mainstream bicycle advocacy community, nearly all of whom are White, middle- to upper-income and do not live or work in the VZ targeted neighborhoods. The potential result of this flawed strategy is that the high level policymakers in attendance will not hear directly from LMI/POC who live and work in VZ targeted neighborhoods regarding their concerns for VZ implementation, especially VZ's enforcement component. The Active Trans priority from the beginning should have been squarely focused on engaging, respecting, elevating and responding to LMI/POC voices and concerns - not those of planners, engineers, designers, consultants and other transportation professionals.
    • Both the City of Chicago and the mainstream bicycle advocacy community here in Chicago are not at all immune to the ravages and impact of structural racism. In fact, racism is deeply ingrained in how our City operates. Recently, Mayor Emanuel publicly acknowledged that racism is a problem within Chicago's police force and other City Hall departments and city agencies. In addition, recently, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson also publicly, and on video, admitted there is racism within the Chicago Police Department
    • Given this context and the backdrop of Chicago Police Department's over-policing, its horrible record of civil rights abuses and the potential for a USDOJ consent decree, we believe the Active Trans roll out strategy for its VZ summit was fundamentally flawed at best. 
    • At worst, it was potentially a deliberate, disrespectful attempt to exclude LMI/POC from the summit, continuing the harmful pattern of top-down policymaking, while also marginalizing our lives and our voices.
    • The end result of all of this, both the City of Chicago's VZ policy/plan and the Active Trans VZ summit, is the real possibility that VZ in Chicago may do more harm than good in LMI communities of color.
    • For these reasons and more, I am calling for the Active Transportation Alliance to cancel their planned VZ summit and return to the drawing board to, from the beginning, engage LMI/POC residents, community leaders and other stakeholder in the VZ targeted neighborhoods in a full partnership to develop and plan a VZ summit with the same high-level policymakers where our voices and concerns are respected, heard and responded to.

    I am writing to respectfully ask for your assistance in elevating this matter to a national level. Specifically, please consider the following as your contribution to helping to move Active Trans to cancel the summit:

    • Read the Streetsblog Chicago article and please participate in the comments section of the article.
    • Share the Streetsblog Chicago article and any of my notes above with your respective internal and external networks.
    • Push the Streetsblog Chicago article and any of my notes above on your respective social media platforms. Please tag Slow Roll Chicago (@slowrollchicago) and Olatunji Oboi Reed (@theycallmeOboi) and we will be sure to amplify your social media posts.
    • Share our position and any of my notes above with your national media contacts for a potential national media story. 
    • In the event anyone has experience with VZ in your respective cities, please contact me to share lessons learned and potential strategies we may execute here in Chicago going forward.

    Thank you in advance for your time, consideration and effort on this matter. 

    Let's ride,

    Olatunji Oboi Reed
    Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
    708-831-3570
    info (at) slowrollchicago (dot) org

    Where in the world is Oboi??? Bogota, Colombia (Day 1 & 2, Part 1)

    Repping our movement as I fly the friendly skies... 

    Slow Roll Chicago's 11-day 2015 Livable Cities Study Tour: Bogota & Medellin, Colombia has begun. On behalf of the #SlowRollCHI bicycle movement, I am here to study the beautiful work being done by the country of Colombia and the cities of Bogota & Medellin to reduce violence, improve health, create jobs, and ultimately make streets & neighborhoods more livable. I am particulary interested in how the Ciclovia movement, bicycles & cycling, transportation, and the transformation of public spaces are transforming lives and improving the condition of communities here in Colombia. I am fortunate to have great contacts here - government leaders, community organizers, bicycle advocates, researchers, educators, and active cyclists. All will provide me with great insight into the work being done across many different sectors to improve livability here. My 11 days here will be spent learning, connecting, networking, exploring, and thinking about what lessons can be gleaned from Colombia to benefit our neighborhoods in Chicago.

    Follow this blog and our Slow Roll Chicago social media accounts for regular updates, let's ride family...   

    Arrived at the beautiful, quiet, quaint The Book Hotel. 

    After 2 plane-switching layovers and about 12 hours of total travel time, I made it to Bogota, Colombia at approximately 1:30am on Friday, November 27. My friend Chris Morfas with the Despacio community organization here in Bogota had prepped me very well for what to expect at the airport. He instructed me in clear terms, "after collecting your luggage, go straight to the official taxi line". Glad to have his advice, first thing I did was convert my US dollars to Colombia pesos. As I departed the baggage claim area, I was inundated by a throng of black-suit wearing drivers asking me to ride with them to my destination. One guy locked eyes with me, followed me out, and was persistent in the fact that he was an official yellow taxi driver and I should ride with him. I remembered my conversation with Chris, resisted the pressure from the gentleman and found the airport's official taxi line. Jumped right into a yellow taxi and made our 20-30 min trip to The Book Hotel in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogota. It is a small, friendly and nice hotel in a great neighborhood.

    It was probably about 2:30am before I was in my room and able to settle in. After my excitement for the journey subsided, I eventually fell asleep on a comfortable yet very firm bed. The next day I slept in pretty late. Reached out to my contacts alerting them of my arrival and scheduled times to connect. True to myself, immediately went in search of a vegetarian restaurant for my first Colombian meal. Discovered the awesome La Esquina Vegetariana Restaurante, about a 10 min taxi ride from the hotel. The lunch special was great, definitely excellent enough for me to order another lunch special to go. The young dude who was my waiter was real cool and we did our best to understand each other. He spoke very little English and I speak practically no Spanish. My saving grace is the little bit of Portuguese I've retained from my 6 months in Brazil in 2012.  After an excellent meal, a relatively long wait to hail a taxi, and time exploring the neighborhood, I made it back to the hotel to relax. I was feeling pretty exhausted at this point and took the night to catch up on some work and plan my day for tomorrow. 

    The next day is today (Saturday, November 28). The temperature is fairly mild here during the day in Bogota. At night though, it can be fairly chilly. After 2 nights of sleeping in the cold, I did 2 things. First, I asked the hotel for a heater to warm up my room a bit. Then, I went to purchase some warm pajamas. That's right, I am wearing pajamas to bed here in Bogota. To find the pajamas and explore the neighborhood more, I walked to a strong commercial corridor about a 10 min walk from the hotel. The street is 13th Avenue right off 57th and It is a vibrant and energetic business strip with lots of shoppers and lots of shops. Along the the entire section of the 10 or so blocks which I traversed, there were street vendors all along the route. Everyone I encountered was friendly and I am pretty sure they looked at me and immediately knew I was not from Colombia. Visited several stores and made a few purchases. Important Lesson #1: learn Spanish, especially critical when it involves spending money. And, yes, America's consumerism has transferred to Bogota. The American concept of "Black Friday" has made it to South America... tsk, tsk, tsk...

    Black Friday, Colombian style (in English, no less). 

    13th Avenue 2-way side-path bike lane. 

    Was pleased to see a 2-way bike path on 13th Avenue, along this bustling commercial corridor. I believe we will refer to this in the US as either a "side path" or an "off-street trail". The bike path is not on the street and is separated from vehicular traffic. It is on the side walk, with a dedicated space for the 2 lanes of bike traffic. It reminds me of the 2-way Dearborn bike lane in Downtown Chicago. Differences were that the Dearborn lane is part of the street and the 13th Avenue lane is part of the sidewalk. Similarities are that both lanes provide some from of separation from cars and gives a greater sense of protection, helping cyclist feel more comfortable and safe. Also similar, is the inevitable reality of walkers in the bike lane. Admittedly, I did not see a lot of this and when I did notice it both the cyclists and walkers were all very courteous to each other. We have advocated consistently for increased protected bike lanes in communities of color and LMI neighborhoods on the Southside and Westside of Chicago. Perhaps, streets in Chicago with heavy car traffic and wide sidewalks can benefit from sidewalk-based bike lanes (side paths) to help more folks feel comfortable and safe riding bikes in their neigborhoods. Bicycle equity means doing more for people who bike the least and for communities with low bicycle mode share. Bicycle equity also means doing more for people and communities the most disproportionately impacted by violence, healthcare disparties, and unemployment. We believe intensely in the transformative power of bicycles to have a positive impact on all three socio-economic factors. Side paths should be a part of our, the city's and the state's toolkit to increase bike mode share in our neighborhoods.

    The reverse view of the 13th Avenue 2-way side-path bike lane.  

    Stay tuned, more photos, videos, and commentary to share. More exploration tonight and riding in Ciclovia tomorrow (Sunday). Here in Bogota until Tuesday, December 1. Then, in the city of Medellin (considered one of the most livable cities in the world) from Tuesday until Saturday. Back in Bogota on Saturday evening and another ride in Bogota's Ciclovia the following Sunday. Return home to Chicago late night Monday, December 7. 

    Right around the corner from my hotel, The Book Hotel. 

    Near the 13th Avenue (at 57th) Commercial Corridor. 

    On the way back to the hotel. 

    Peace, let's ride...

    Oboi