Posted by Jason Hall on Monday, June 25, 2018
June 18, 2018
There's something of a paradox when it comes to getting around town in downtown Detroit. The Motor City was built on the rich legacy of the automobile and our American obsession with it… now that fixation is being directed at a very different set of wheels. Just 15 years ago, it wouldn’t have made sense to see a shirt on a cyclist that says “Detroit Is Where I Roll.” Cut to 2018, and the biking community in Detroit is creating a lot of positive change and national attention to boot.
The catalyst for all of this is Jason Hall, co-founder of Slow Roll Detroit, a weekly bike ride that started with a group of friends and now plays the biggest role in the rise of Detroit’s urban biking scene. With over 10,000 members, Slow Roll has taken on a life of its own, revealing many amazing stories and new perspective on Detroit.
“When I got my first email saying ‘this ride changed my life,’ I knew this was becoming something more than just a bike ride,” said Jason.
Riders from the metro area are connecting with Detroit in a way they never have before. They’re meeting new people and discovering new places along the way. Most importantly, they’re becoming part of something that’s bigger than the city itself. For the people born and raised in Detroit, there’s always been an overwhelming sense of community, and the biking community is strengthening that, attracting people from all over the Metro Area.
“It’s another part of Detroit’s revival. The jobs are here now and we’re becoming this new cosmo hipster town… there’s less fear now," said Jason. "When you can ride down most streets at night, you know things have changed.”
Slow Roll helps to bolster new businesses in the D as well, especially bike shops. Motorless City once told Jason that if it weren’t for Slow Roll coming by each week, they might not be open at all. By getting people to explore the city from behind the handlebars instead of through a windshield, they are discovering new spots to eat, drink, and hang out. What’s happening in the city? It’s one ride away.
“Slow Roll isn’t just a [bike] ride, it’s about drawing attention to whatever you might need at that time in your area,” explains Hall...
“We’ve been contacted by cities worldwide to learn how they can get their own Slow Roll up and running. If you go to Chicago, their Slow Roll is all about the southside. Buffalo, it’s a manufacturing town. They’re all pretty different, but they have great communities that are committed to improving their own city.”
Jason has met a lot of people who shared his vision, including Steven and Paul, co-founders of Ink Detroit and The Great Lakes State. They were there in the beginning and witnessed the rise of a biking community in Detroit. Sharing the vision from day one, they developed the design for “Detroit Is Where I Roll.” When Jason saw that particular shirt, it resonated with him, and the rest is history. Jason, Steven and Paul have been colleagues ever since.
“When I work with someone, I want to build a relationship. Steven is a now a good friend of mine, and I wanted that before we ever started working together,” adds Jason. “Sure, they have a reputation for making great t-shirts, but they’re much more than that… they believe in a revitalized Detroit, we share a similar work ethic, and we have faith in each other, it’s that simple.”
Ink Detroit and TGLS have worked to be part of the bigger conversation about change in Detroit. The conversation that brings positive attention and renewed pride to Detroit. Whether it’s working with Jason on his numerous other ventures such as the Pizza Throwdown to keeping Emily T Gail’s “Say Nice Things About Detroit” alive, it’s all about generating conversations that inspire the next generation of loyal Detroiters everywhere.
There are a lot of changes happening in the city but people don’t necessarily know how or why… they don’t know why bike lanes are being added or why bike advocacy is a positive thing that has real political power in the city. So Jason is creating more ways to connect with people, to enable mobility, a tool for empowerment, through events such as (RI)Detroit, which focuses more on smaller rides, community and ongoing communication.
“I can’t tell thousands of people at Slow Roll the importance of bike advocacy while I’m yelling through a megaphone,” says Jason, “but if I tell 250 people and they go and tell 250 of their family friends and colleagues, now we have something bigger and more important than each of us. That’s a better way for everyone to digest the big message.”
Jason is also working with Pure Michigan and will be hosting a show called Urban DNA, where he’ll be traveling to various cities to explore and celebrate their culture. No doubt you’ve already seen his Apple iPad commercial, a tribute to what is now a legacy Detroit biking community. With so many different things happening in the Detroit Metro Area, let alone the entire state of Michigan, the opportunity for growth is seemingly endless.
“Why do we have to just be the Motor City? Why do we need to choose just one thing?
Why can’t Detroit be the Everything City!?”
If you don’t think it’s possible, get on a bike and explore downtown. You might be surprised. Detroiters are ambitious, bootstrapping pioneers and leaders. It’s the spirit that created Motown, EDM, Vernors, Detroit-style pizza, Coneys and more - that’s why there’s no end to what’s next for Detroit.