As we continue to evolve in how we honor our mission to connect communities by bike, we will continue to follow the lead of public health professionals. Anyone interested in getting involved in any way is welcome to contact us at slowrollbuffalo@gmail.com. 

Solo Rides

Following the encouragement of public health professionals for people to maintain mental and physical health through passive use of our parks, as well as approval from leading doctors at our presenting partner Independent Health, we’ve now shared 15 Slow Roll routes from Buffalo parks and past host venues – each route 10 miles long, as is the standard Slow Roll. Additionally, we’ve created a Slow Roll Buffalo YouTube channel with a series of videos showing shorter routes between parks set to songs by local artists, while spotlighting rapid-response helpers and ways to support them.

Big thanks to Buffalo Toronto Public Media – WBFO 88.7FM and WNED TV, our NPR and PBS affiliates, respectively – for responding to these stories with extended coverage linked below, more to come:

“Slow Roll Buffalo, bike couriers doing whatever they can to help during COVID-19”

“Feed Buffalo one of many food pantries working together during COVID-19”

“Bike shops in WNY, for a few hours, were not deemed an essential service”

“A ticking time bomb: COVID-19’s impact on Buffalo’s Black community”

“Food Apartheid: Coalition works to bring healthy foods to Buffalo’s East Side”

We are dedicated to public safety, therefore routinely checking in with local leaders and Erie County Department of Health for guidance; for example, we sent some info on safe social distance cycling to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s office for vetting, specifically a UK-based model from road.cc made with guidance from the World Health Organization, which was endorsed by county health officials with a few reminders:

– carry hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes

– keep from congregating with others along the way

– ride only with members of your own household

We’ll add:

– carry tools and a spare tube

– do the standard ABC check – Air, Brakes, Tires

– if in need of repair help, find your nearest bike shop, such as the GObike Community Workshop

Speaking of GObike Buffalo, our friends there have shared some great guidance for “Social Distancing in Passive Recreation and Active Transportation,” such as Buffalo’s removal of motor vehicles on the Delaware Park ring road – an easy example of a policy that should already exist to to create a more walkable, bikeable community. Further, GObike recommends:

– Create additional capacity for passive recreation with Open Streets at peak times

– Create Open Streets loops within neighborhoods

– Reduce underutilized car lanes on arterial roads and parkways to dedicate space to people

“GObike has developed these examples from best practices of cities across the world who are managing the physical and mental health needs of their residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, needs that will only grow the longer social distancing restrictions and institutional and workplace shutdowns are in effect.”

Social Distance and Social Solidarity

While we’ve named our routes and videos “Social Distance Rides,” we recognize that social distance is a potentially problematic term to emphasize – in a personal sense, social distancing is a privilege that many can’t fully afford, as most Americans are unable to telework, such as those who farm and prepare the food consumed at Slow Roll afterparties; in a communal sense, it’s one small part of social solidarity. Quoting sociologist Eric Klinenberg in a related and compelling conversation with Vox Media cofounder Ezra Klein, “solidarity is the idea of recognizing, honoring, and sustaining the bonds of interconnection and the ties of interdependence that allow us to flourish. It’s about being in it together.”

Keeping safe social distance to keep from spreading this virus is therefore a form of solidarity; in turn, those who are overcrowding public spaces – whether by piling into stores, passing closely on sidewalks and trails, or cycling in tight groups – are prioritizing personal preference over public health, therefore betraying solidarity.

Further, many of us stand to suffer from the isolation created by social distancing – the more we say, “Stay home,” the further we isolate those who lack the social support that so many take for granted. We need to hold space for our neighbors such as the elders, immunocompromised, and single parents who are homebound, lacking the luxury to run errands or ride around parks.

How Can We Help?

Continuing this understanding of solidarity, our friends at PUSH Buffalo and the burgeoning Buffalo Mutual Aid Network stress that mutual aid is “solidarity, not charity.” We need more helpers, not saviors.

PUSH is among many local grassroots organizations that have been operating in solidarity from conception, and thus are poised to led us through current crisis.

One way Buffalo’s cycling community can provide mutual aid is through a collaboration between PUSH, GObike, Slow Roll and the new Queen City Couriers to acquire and deliver food to our homebound neighbors – we are calling for both monetary donations and volunteers through the Queen City Couriers website.

Queen City Couriers photos by Clay Davies

We can learn more about mutual aid from those for whom it’s already deeply ingrained, such as communities that already suffer from systemic disparities in health and wealth, as featured in these videos from Buffalo’s Fruit Belt and greater East Side:

Please keep in touch. This is a time to ask for and offer help; a time to “look for the helpers,” as Mister Rogers so wisely advised; a time to tighten our connections and evolve together, for the greater good. We pledge to do our part – stay tuned here, and again, anyone is welcome to contact us for anything, slowrollbuffalo@gmail.com.