White House Champions of Change, Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation, program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Tuesday, October 13, 2015.
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Letter From Slow Roll Chicago Co-Founder Olatunji Oboi Reed

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dear Slow Roll Chicago Community:

Since co-founding the Slow Roll Chicago Bicycle Movement, my life has been a whirlwind full of incredible successes and daunting challenges.

I sincerely apologize to the broader Slow Roll Chicago community, members, partners, and supporters for my early-2016 abrupt, unplanned leave of absence from our organization. From our very first ride in September of 2014, I've focused nearly all of my time, space, will, and energy on growing Slow Roll Chicago's impact and presence in Chicago. Unfortunately, this sustained effort on my part caused me serious health challenges. In order to take the steps necessary to improve my personal health and well-being, I needed to step back from the day-to-day operations of Slow Roll Chicago as well as our national and international outreach efforts.

As I've watched from a distance our organization continue to move forward, I am grateful for all the people, organizations, and businesses who never wavered in their support of our work. I am deeply thankful for all the personal love I've received from our community. Every single text, voice mail, email, card, and gift was a breath of fresh air and a ray of light. They served as a reminder to me of what we built together and helped me internalize why this work is critically important for our neighborhoods and our City.

I especially want to share my humble and heartfelt appreciation for my brother & co-founder Jamal Julien, founding board member Derrick James, D4E project leader & ride leader Dan Black, ride leader Romina Castillo, Squad leader Jerome Hughes, program managers David Peterson, Anton Seals, Simone Alexander, Miguel Alvelo-Rivera, Tracie Watkins, and Go Bronzeville D4E project leaders Ronnie Matthews & Rebecca Noble. Together, and with the help of so many others (too many to name here), you all rallied to organize and execute our rides, programs, and advocacy. Your and everyone else's steadfast commitment to our movement kept Slow Roll Chicago alive and well, rolling forward as we all collectively envisioned.

I will always love Slow Roll Chicago. I love that we ride bikes to make our neighborhoods better. I love that this is why we exist and this is why we ride.

I will always believe in our mission to connect a diverse group of people who utilize bikes and the activity of cycling as vehicles for social justice and social change, transforming lives and improving the condition of our communities by organizing community bicycle rides and other cycling-related programs throughout Chicago.

I will always trust in our vision of equal bicycle usage across the City of Chicago with respect to race, income, and neighborhood. I continue to envision bicycles as a form of effective transportation, contributing to reducing violence, improving health, creating jobs, and ultimately making our neighborhoods more livable.

I will always have faith in our priorities of 1. Signature Ride Series; 2. bikeSHFT Youth Leadership Program; and 3. Bicycle Equity Advocacy.

I will always have confidence in the power of bicycle equity and transportation justice in Chicago and around the world in helping to improve communities and transform lives. I remain an advocate on behalf of communities of color and low- to moderate-income communities, advocating for three public commitments here in Chicago from local, state, and federal policymakers: 1. Bicycle equity as a policy priority: equitably distributing bicycle resources (protected bike lanes, Divvy stations, other bicycle infrastructure, programs, and funding) to communities which need them the most and which stand to benefit from them the most (in Chicago these are communities of color and low- to moderate-income communities); 2. Community ownership of the transportation/bicycle planning process: providing meaningful opportunities for neighborhood residents to express an authentic voice in the decision-making process surrounding transportation and bicycle infrastructure projects in their neighborhoods; and 3. Respect for the needs, culture, and history in our neighborhoods: reflecting the unique needs, culture, and history of a neighborhood in the infrastructure and achieving greater engagement, ownership, and investment from residents.

Lastly, I will always affirm our strategy of 1. Community: creating and connecting communities across racial, geographical, and social divides; 2. Culture: building an equitable, diverse, and inclusive bicycle culture in Chicago and establishing a vibrant bicycle culture in communities of color and low- to moderate-income neighborhoods on the Southside and Westside of Chicago; 3. Context: hosting neighborhood-based, thematic, community bicycle rides in partnership with community organizations which serve as vehicles to explore both the beauty and the challenges in our neighborhoods; and 4. Clarity: expressing in consistent, inspiring, and clear terms who we are, what we do and why we do it.

We are a bicycle movement; we ride bikes to make our neighborhoods better.

My role with Slow Roll Chicago has necessarily changed and will continue to evolve. Going forward, in the short term, I will primarily focus on our internal organizational and business matters. In addition, I will support Jamal and team as they continue to lead and manage Slow Roll Chicago. In the event you have an urgent matter which requires my attention, please contact me at your convenience.

Ride with me in the whirlwind, may the journey continue...

Let's ride,

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Olatunji Oboi Reed
Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago
Oboi [at] SlowRollChicago [dot] org
708 831 3570