Slow Roll Buffalo rolled into its third season last week – or tried to, anyway – with a new six-month schedule of weekly bicycle rides through city neighborhoods. The program is costly, labor intensive and an unalloyed boon to Buffalo.
The season had been slated to kick off from Niagara Square May 1, but the ride was canceled for the best of unfortunate reasons: a tornado watch. Luckily for Western New York, no twisters appeared and the season’s inaugural ride was put off until this week. The rides continue weekly through October.
The program is based on one that began in Detroit, which remains the biggest, with up to 5,000 cyclists on a single ride. Buffalo’s largest outing over the first two seasons attracted about 2,500 riders, showing there is plenty of interest here.
Slow Roll is now a division of GObike Buffalo, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting safe bicycling in the city as a way to provide alternative transportation and to improve health, the environment and quality of life.
Slow Roll offers many benefits to Buffalo, beginning with the connection it creates among the riders and between them and the city. It’s an urban social event that reinforces and expands the fabric of the city. Many bicyclists visit parts of the city they would never otherwise see. That’s a benefit both to the riders and residents of those neighborhoods.
Slow Roll is also a great advertisement for Buffalo, helping to attract young people back into the city.
And, of course, health and exercise are issues. It’s no coincidence that Independent Health has helped GObike Buffalo to thrive.
The rides are free to bicyclists, but making them happen takes effort and money – around $1,000 per ride, including a share of the costs of police who help to keep riders safe. Organizers also work with representatives of the neighborhoods where rides take place in a committed effort to ensure that the experience is a net positive for all who are involved – willingly or not. It encourages a code of responsible and friendly conduct for riders.
Finally, the rides, from all accounts, are a great time. They make people happy. They add something special to Buffalo’s warm weather season, which – we are assured – will arrive any day now. Riders who are interested need to register and can do so at slowrollbuffalo.org, where the season’s schedule is posted. For anyone who wants to be a part of Buffalo’s resurgence, this is a great opportunity.