Slow Roll St. Paul July Rides Recap

Photo credit: Jonathan Pavlica Photography / http://www.pavlicaphotography.com

July has come and gone, and with it, another month of Slow Roll St. Paul rides. Didn’t make it out to a ride? We’ve got you covered–read on to catch up on what you missed!

For those who may not have heard of Slow Roll St. Paul, Slow Roll rides are big group bike rides organized throughout the country that, as you guessed it, slowly roll through neighborhoods.

Here in St. Paul, they’re organized collaboratively by Move Minnesota and Cycles for Change. But there’s always more to it than just a bike ride! With an added focus on building community in low-wealth neighborhoods and communities of color, these rides highlight community landmarks and feature speakers from local organizations and businesses that address issues these neighborhoods face.

On July 11, the focus of our ride was on connecting with residents in the Frogtown/Rondo neighborhoods. Organizers asked ride participants to take note of biking and walking infrastructure details during the ride, specifically as we rode on the bridges over I-94. We wanted to hear from people to better understand what makes getting around on foot or by bike challenging, how it could improve, what are people’s perceptions around safety on the street, and ultimately, what they would do if they could rethink Interstate-94.

This ride, C4C and MM partnered with Urban Farm and Garden Alliance, a collective of leaders and members of 7 unique garden plots in the Aurora/St. Anthony, Rondo, and Frogtown neighborhoods. Riders met outside of Pilgrim Baptist Church’s community garden and were greeted and welcomed by our host, Nate Galloway, who coordinates the garden and spoke about the development of the Pilgrim Garden and the history of the area.

Photo credit: Jonathan Pavlica Photography / http://www.pavlicaphotography.com

After the warm welcome, the group rolled out, starting with a quick ride over the year-old pedestrian and bike bridge on Grotto. Riders arrived at the first garden stop–the Lovejoy Community Garden–to hear from other local leaders about the history of the garden and its impact on the community. Tucked into a vacant lot, this plot could easily be missed by a person driving down the street, despite the verdant produce growing in between houses.

The group’s next stop was outside Maxfield Elementary School, where the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance manages a community garden plot that supports a gardening program for second grade science classes. Melvin Giles of the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance spoke to the group about the Rondo neighborhood’s tragic history after the community was nearly destroyed and generations of wealth disparities were exacerbated by Interstate-94’s construction. Melvin highlighted how important it is for communities of color to take steps towards building self-sufficiency, by feeding themselves rather than relying on unjust food systems that help keep communities unhealthy.

Once back at Pilgrim’s community garden, riders shared their fresh takes on what biking in a community bisected by a major interstate highway felt like, over food from the family-owned Golden Thyme Coffee & Cafe.

***

Meanwhile on the other side of Downtown St. Paul, a similar scene was being planned. On July 25, bikes and bikers gathered outside of the gorgeous East Side Freedom Library, a historic Carnegie library building in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. This ride focused on workers’ rights (which the ESFL also focuses on), and how the issue of a minimum wage carveout affects youth, tipped workers, and immigrants. C4C and MM were joined by ESFL’s Peter Rachleff and Clarence White, as well as several 15NOW supporters.

The day of the ride began ominously with rain clouds in the sky. But by late afternoon we had only a few sprinkles and riders gathered as the sun began to shine, ready for a cool evening ride.

The group set off toward Lake Phalen and made its first stop at Johnson High School where Pheng Xiong, a student at Johnson and member of Urban Roots, talked about the importance of a $15 minimum wage, and why youth should not be exempt this minimum. With another stop at Hmong Village, we heard from Nelsie Yang and SuChann Yang, who spoke about growing up on the East Side. We also heard from Joey Giffen-Hunter. They spoke of how a low minimum wage affected their ability to sustain a family and buy a home.

Riders returned to the East Side Freedom Library sooner than the food arrived, and had time to meet neighbors, check out the library, and move to the music on the speakers outside. Riders heard from one last speaker, a young person introduced by Perryline from CTUL, who spoke about how they left a job at a fast food place and how it was hard to organize because of backlash. She discussed the false promises about the business changing and paying them more and how nothing ever happened. She felt like they didn’t care about the workers and how much they struggled to just get by. The long awaited meal was from Cajun Life, an East Side restaurant that supports a $15 minimum wage and does care about their workers. The food was worth the wait–the fried chicken, catfish, and potatoes were devoured as the sun set on another gorgeous July night in St. Paul.