There are community gardens tucked into the the corners of Frogtown; there are new bike lanes popping up on the East Side. St. Paul is full of hidden treasures that are often missed while driving in a car. Move Minnesota and Cycles for Change are partnering to help residents discover what’s great about St. Paul by hosting six Slow Roll St. Paul community bike rides in the summer of 2018.
Slow Roll is a movement that was started in Detroit. It aims to be an all-inclusive bike ride that highlights the vibrancy of major cities. Slow Roll was started in St. Paul in 2017, with a goal of bringing people together through biweekly community bicycle rides. Slow Roll St. Paul creates community spaces that uplift the people reflected in St. Paul neighborhoods; incorporates the arts and cultures of Black, Indigenous, and people of color; and collaborates with bike organizations, non-bike organizations, and local businesses.
So, how do bikes bring people together? How can investing in bicycling become investing in your community?
At the first Slow Roll St. Paul ride of the 2018 season on June 13, bikes and bikers gathered in the Fellowship Church parking lot in Frogtown. One rider noticed the large group slowly amassing, and walked over with his bike: “I live across the street from here,” he said.
Another was notified of the ride on social media: “I follow Frogtown Farm on Facebook and they posted about the ride,” he said. “I live in South Como and used to work at Mississippi Market so I know this area well.”
At 6:00pm, 35 riders took off to tour the neighborhood atop two wheels, making stops at Golden Thyme Cafe, Frogtown Farm, and Model Cities. The 5-mile ride took riders north to south, over I-94, through Rondo, and along a hidden neighborhood park path. Riders stopped at Golden Thyme Cafe and owner Stephanie Wright talked about the importance of supporting people of color-owned businesses and local businesses. Frogtown Farm Communication and Development specialist Shelby Rutzick greeted riders as they pedaled up the hill to the top of the farm and talked about the importance of providing neighborhood-grown food to residents of Frogtown. Model Cities Director of Community Kizzie Downie welcomed riders inside the new Brownstone building in St. Paul after the ride for food and conversation. Kizzie gave tours of the Reading Room, which highlights the history and stories of Black railroad workers in St. Paul.
Just two weeks later, a similar scene was set at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center on the East Side, a local space that provides programming promoting the practice of holistic well-being through indigenous arts, culture, and tradition. Riders were joined by a special guest on this ride–Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx! Sylvia, the WNBA’s 2017 Most Valuable Player and an avid bicyclist, donated part of her MVP award to Cycles for Change last fall, and has continued her generosity into this year by giving bicycles to seven Cycles for Change youth apprentices and joining us for a Slow Roll St. Paul ride.
49 people came ready to roll slow, and after a warm kick-off from Indigenous Roots’ co-founder and co-director Mary Anne Quiroz, the group set off through the neighborhood, riding by parks and community hubs such as the East Side Freedom Library, Hmong Village, and Duluth Case Rec Center. The evening wrapped up inside Indigenous Roots’ dance room, with riders huddled over pupusas, listening to representatives from the cultural arts center speak to the importance of voting and standing by your neighbors, followed by music for the more intrepid to dance to.
The first rides of the season not only showed off businesses and organizations important to the Frogtown, Rondo, and East Side communities, but also showed riders how easily accessible these places are by bicycle. The neighborhoods feel different when traversed by bicycle; neighbors waved and little kids yelled hi. Houses seemed to have more details, potholes in the road were easily noticed, and cottonwood floated in the air while glinting rays of the setting sun. Think all of that would be noticed while driving in a car? It can be a shock at first to take in all of these differences–especially in areas where hearing engines and horns are the norm. But it’s a welcome change to hear 50 bikes clicking and whirring all at once, music playing in the distance, and neighbors chatting and laughing.
Ready to join us for our next ride? On Wednesday, July 11, Slow Roll St. Paul’s Frogtown/Rondo ride will begin at Pilgrim Garden. The ride will highlight community gardens in the neighborhood, as well as make a stop at Rondo Plaza. Gather 5:30pm, depart 6:00pm, return 7:00pm with food to follow.