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Thousands of bike riders kick off ‘Slow Roll’ season

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A few years ago, Jason Hall set out to organize a series of leisurely bike rides among friends to showcase the beauty across the city’s neighborhoods.

Today, the weekly rides in Detroit attract thousands and have evolved into a national movement in cities from Buffalo to Chicago, Berlin, Sweden and Iraq.

Sunday was no exception as more than 1,500 “Slow Roll” members gathered on Russell Street in Eastern Market amid food trucks, music and merchandise stands to prepare for a kick off ride marking the group’s fifth season.

“We wanted people to see the city in a different light,” said Hall, a Corktown resident and Slow Roll’s co-founder. “We got a vibe. People started to join us. It just blew up.”

Each Monday, the group meets at different venues throughout the city, including major and minor neighborhoods, for 8-to-12 mile routes during its season that runs through October.

With 2,000 to 4,000 riders per outing, the weekly bicycle ride is the Michigan’s largest. It’s also among the biggest in the country, says Mike Torres, a squad captain for Slow Roll.

Starting this year, all riders must register for an annual $10 basic membership for 30 rides. They also offer a premium membership for $50 per year that includes special discounts and offers.

The annual fee will help offset the cost of obtaining permits, police support for traffic control and event insurance, organizers said.

Slow Roll is owned and operated by the nonprofit Detroit Bike City, Inc., They are currently working to earn a charitable designation.

Torres, a north Corktown resident, was among the members of the initial group of about 10 friends who started riding four years ago. They promoted the weekly outings on social media and each week they continued to grow, he said.

Torres or “Big Mike” now helps coordinate routes and configured Sunday’s trek down Grand River to Charlevoix in the city’s east side.

“This thing has evolved so quickly that every week it’s something new and something different,” he said. “You get people from all races, ages, creeds that come together and enjoy this city.”

East side resident Gabrielle Pressley was among the members on Sunday waiting eagerly to set out for the season opener.

The stay-at-home mother of three children ages 15, 12 and 11, says the rides have become part of her weekly routine.

“It shows people that the city is safe. We can get together without difficulty,” said Pressley, 32, who has enjoyed touring well-known areas in past seasons and hopes to ride through some more lesser traveled neighborhoods this season.

Kewan Covington, 37, of St. Clair Shores, joined the club last year.

“It brings me a great deal of pleasure,” he said. “My thoughts are free. It’s easing to the soul.”