Slow Movement in Oshkosh

Slow Rolls are popping up all over the country.

These slow paced community fun rides are a great way to reintroduce people to their bikes and to their cities. I had the chance to participate in one in Oshkosh earlier this month.

Part of the more than 100 folks who slow rolled through Oshkosh in July.

Slow Roll Oshkosh kicks off at 6:30PM on the third Tuesday of each month. On the beautiful summer evening in July that I joined in the fun there were 103 folks who showed up to ride.

The events are organized by a small group of volunteers led by Ben Rennert of Winnebago Bikes in downtown Oshkosh, one of the coolest shops I’ve seen in the state.

Slow Roll Oshkosh co-conspirators Ben Rennert and Kris Larson.

Like all slow rolls this one had a great mix of people of all abilities. Lots of parents with young kids, but also some urban hipsters, older folks and even a few Lycra clad riders. The organizers wore yellow vests and stopped traffic where they needed to. They check in with the Oshkosh police and let them know their route and when they’re likely to be at certain points, but the cops are cool with the self-policing. And drivers were patient and understanding everywhere we rode.

It took us about an hour to do five or so miles. The point of slow roll, as the name might imply, is not to set any land speed records, but to simply enjoy the ride and maybe see a different neighborhood or learn a little something along the way. It’s also a great way to raise awareness among drivers and neighborhood residents that a lot of people do ride bikes in their community.

Slow roll has some roots, I suppose, in the early critical mass rides that originated in San Francisco. But those rides were often in-your-face political statements designed to impede car traffic and make a point. Slow rolls carry a subtle political message too (we’re sharing the street just as the law allows) but it’s a much gentler approach. It’s a movement about movement; a slow, gentle statement that it’s fun to ride a bike, that folks from all walks of life do it, and that we have a right to roll down our streets safely.

In Oshkosh, there are three more rides planned this season. If you’re in the area and want to join in the fun you can get details at Slow Roll Oshkosh.

About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

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