Jason Hall cofounded Slow Roll Detroit, one of the largest weekly bicycle rides in the world, bringing together 5,000 people a week to enjoy Detroit at a slower pace. Before devoting his work fulltime to Slow Roll and other Detroit mobility initiatives, Jason was an Associate Director for WDIV Local 4. He has written for Real Detroit and The Detroit Metro Times. He has appeared in the television shows The Detroiters, HBO’s Togetherness, Viceland’s The Pizza Show and The Amazing Race. He has spoken at TedX Detroit and won the Spirit of Detroit award multiple times. Recently he was spotlighted in Michael Bolton’s movie American Dream: Detroit. He has also appeared in ad campaigns for The Henry Ford, The Detroit Pistons and Pure Michigan. He has worked with over 30 charities and co-chaired the American Heart Association Heart Ball in 2017.
Recently, he left Slow Roll to found a new cycling organization, RiDetroit. We wanted to find out more about it, so we asked him some questions…
1. Tell us about RiDetroit.
RiDetroit is an organization devoted to the progression of community initiatives through conversations had while riding bicycles around the city of Detroit.
The inspiration for RiDetroit came from me co-founding Slow Roll Detroit. After running what's arguably the largest weekly bike ride in the world, averaging 5,000 riders a week, I felt like I was losing the ability to have a conversation while riding. I became so involved in keeping people corralled, police routes, funding and all the other things that I lost the real thing we started it for: the conversations. At the same time, as I began to travel the world by bicycle, I started to learn what bicycling not only meant to Detroit, but where it fit globally. That led me to the conclusion that the large ride is amazing and has a place, but for me, I needed something else.
2. Years ago, you started Slow Roll, which grew into a huge event. How does RiDetroit differ from Slow Roll? What made you decide it was time to leave Slow Roll and do something different?
RiDetroit will never have more riders than 250 is the first difference. The large ride has a place, but this about intimate experiences. Slow Roll lost the ability to do a lot of the things that made us what we were. We used to stop and take a group photo. We could also fit in places that it simply cannot anymore.
I decided it was time for me to leave when I felt like it could move on without me. I was so invested in everything that it was a transition, but the organization is capable of growing because now it’s a movement and the people won’t let it die. I always said that even if we stopped doing an official Slow Roll, there will always be one because it belongs to the city and the people.
3. What have you learned in your years of bicycle advocacy?
The importance of equity in the bicycling world is the first thing that I learned. I was excited to see all the bike lanes going in everywhere, but what good is it only a certain group of people have access to those lanes? If I don’t have a bike, why would I support the change that’s happening? We need to get bikes in the hands of everyone. We need to educate everyone on the why of what we doing so it makes sense. What surprised me is that we all think everyone has something as simple as a bike, but they don’t.
4. How has Detroit evolved when it comes to bike riding?
The city has evolved in its acceptance of the bicycle culture. When we started Slow Roll, the city didn’t know what it was. The culture was growing but when we hit, it was an explosion. I applaud the city on how it dealt with our massive growth. Now, they've owned the ride as much as we do. There is always room for growth: more bike lanes, better landscaping solutions. As the city changes, we need to make sure we include not only bicycle infrastructure, but all mobility needs to be taken into consideration.
5. You are also involved in Rebrand Detroit. Tell us about that.
I’ve known Hajj Fleming’s for years and he was an early inspiration of mine. When he called me to be involved with Rebrand Detroit, I couldn’t say no. Detroit is going through an interesting time, and one of the most important things is how the world sees us. We must make sure that when we tell Detroit’s story, it stays authentic. Rebranding Detroit is a group of people that understand that. Detroit has a rich history and we need to preserve that integrity while evolving.
Extra Credit: If you could ride through Detroit with any celebrity, who would it be?
If I could ride a bike with anyone it would be Stevie Wonder. I’m not joking either. I’d love to take him out on a tandem. I would love to hear the wisdom that would come from him. So much love has come out of that man. I can’t imagine the energy.
Sept. 29, 2018: Founders Detroit & RiDetroit Ride for the Detroit Public Schools Foundation
You can join RiDetroit for their next ride on Saturday, September 29th. The ride meets at Founders Brewery in Detroit at 11:00 am. Tickets are $40 and proceeds will benefit the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.