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My View: Slow Rolls inspire a revolution on wheels

By Joe Genco

There is a two-wheel revolution afoot in Western New York. It started with GObike Buffalo. Shortly thereafter came Slow Roll. Eventually they joined. Now it seems every community has a pedal party. Many have weekly group rides.

Elitist detractors decry Monday Slow Rolls as populated by “suburban tourists.” Many critics have never been on the ride, instead only complaining because they were delayed once for 20 minutes commuting in their steel cocoon to their cozy couch, TV and cold beer.

If they came to ride, they would see much. For example, a 96-year-old riding without a helmet (if he made it this far, who’s to challenge?).

Or the bright young entrepreneurs from the African Heritage Food Co-op selling apples, bananas and water. There is no option but ownership.

Couples ride together in the most inclusive, desegregated weekly event our region has ever seen. You don’t need the right clothes, income or a fancy bike to be embraced, just the gumption to feel the love.

I had a great chat last year with a young man riding a $15 bike, wearing a basketball jersey and a sideways cap. He is at a charter school student headed for SUNY Buffalo State on a Say Yes scholarship and hoping to join ROTC. I would not have learned of his bright future if I viewed him from my car as I sped past.

Joe Genco.

Feel the energy as Hugh Perkins leads chants of, “Hey hey, all right, we’re riding our bikes on Monday night!”

Veronica Jackson smiles and waves at a woman standing on an upstairs porch: “I see you up there.” The greetings are returned in a way that brings sunshine to a cloudy day.

New Americans in Islamic robes stand on the street near the Central Terminal with phone cameras, commemorating the day Slow Roll came down their street and helped them celebrate our great America.

Father Jud Weiksnar is there spreading love, welcoming newcomers as St. Francis did. There are 25 Slow Rolls this season and 19 pedal parties in other communities, including Clarence.

Then there are Wednesdays when the indefatigable Anita West and Handlebars Bike Shop lead a ride from Old Man River in Tonawanda with the cheerful and inclusive Slow Spokes.

There are weekly rides from Martin Luther King Jr. Park as well as the Clarence Hollow Farm Market. In fact there are now so many group rides I can’t list them all.
Meanwhile, infrastructure is improving. In Clarence, Main Street from Sheridan Drive to Transit now has bike lanes and Sheridan is about to get them.

Almost 1,000 signatures have been gathered on petitions advocating the paving of the former Peanut Line from East Amherst to Ellicott Creek, the sort of Gold Spike in our Trans-Erie County bike system.

Before Slow Roll, I hadn’t ridden a bike regularly in at least 25 years. Now I do it all the time, to the gym, to yoga, to work and every other chance I get.

Join the revolution.

Joe Genco works as a financial adviser in Amherst.

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