For the first time, the Detroit Slow Roll bike ride ventures outside the city limits to include Harper Woods as its starting and ending point.

For the first time, the Detroit Slow Roll bike ride ventures outside the city limits to include Harper Woods as its starting and ending point.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Slow Roll bike ride takes place in Harper Woods for the first time

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 29, 2018

 Chambora Balize, of Southfield, takes part in the Slow Roll bike ride through Harper Woods and the east side Aug. 27.

Chambora Balize, of Southfield, takes part in the Slow Roll bike ride through Harper Woods and the east side Aug. 27.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Huntington Woods residents Francesca Tiseo, right, her daughter, Rachel Tiseo, and Rachel’s cousin, Diane, left, bring along their furry friends, Sassy and JoJo, for the first Border Ride with Slow Roll Detroit.

Huntington Woods residents Francesca Tiseo, right, her daughter, Rachel Tiseo, and Rachel’s cousin, Diane, left, bring along their furry friends, Sassy and JoJo, for the first Border Ride with Slow Roll Detroit.

Photo by Donna Agusti

HARPER WOODS — Since 2010, Slow Roll has grown to become one of Detroit’s most popular summer activities. For the first time, however, the ride ventured outside the city with its inaugural “Border Ride” Aug. 27.

The ride began and ended outside Starter’s Bar and Grill in the parking lot of Eastland Center. Hundreds of riders went on a 10-mile route that snaked through Harper Woods, into Detroit and then back into Harper Woods.

“This is the first official cross-border Slow Roll,” said Harper Woods City Manager Joe Rheker. “I’ve been working with (Detroit City Councilman) Scott Benson on our Kelly Road revitalization, and we started talking about Slow Roll and agreed bringing it to Harper Woods would be a good fit.”

Slow Roll holds about 24 rides per year on Monday nights between May and October. Organizers hoped that including a ride in Harper Woods would allow new riders to join and would give previous riders some places to travel that they may have never seen before on a bike.

“In Harper Woods, like everywhere we ride, our mission is to bring people together who wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” said Slow Roll Chairman Jeff Herron. “It’s hard to be angry on a bike.”

What started as a few people out for a bike ride has grown into a major public event in which hundreds of bike riders can be spotted taking to the streets of Detroit almost every week during the summer.

“Slow Roll started eight years ago and began as just a few friends riding through the city together,” explained Herron. “In 2013, it really took off, and we grew from 40 riders at the beginning of the summer to over 1,000 riders. We were too big to fly under the radar after that, so we registered as a nonprofit.”

Herron and his team were approached by Benson and Rheker about the possibility of expanding the rides into Harper Woods.

“We were approached by Scott Benson, the District 3 councilman from Detroit, about trying out a ride on this side of town,” said Herron. “He had been talking with (Harper Woods City Manager) Joe Rheker about how it would be good to take riders into some east side neighborhoods that they might not normally get to see. We have people from the west side of the city here who I guarantee have never been in these neighborhoods we’re seeing tonight.”

Harper Woods City Councilwoman Valerie Kindle took part in the event and said she was happy to see so many people visiting the city.

“This is the first time they’ve done it outside the city of Detroit,” she said. “I have friends from all over who showed up. Having events like this really improves the quality of life for people, and bringing more people into Harper Woods, even just for one evening, always helps.”

People who took part in the ride seemed pleased with the change of scenery, and residents of Harper Woods and nearby communities were happy to have a ride closer to home.

“We’re excited it’s in Harper Woods,” said Harper Woods resident Adrienne Strubank. “It’s nice to see it more active in our community, and to see more going on, on the east side.”

“This is my first time here,” added Strubank’s friend, Rose Roarty, of Grosse Pointe Woods. “I like seeing people of all ages and different kinds of people coming together for a nice local event.”

Harper Woods resident Turkessa Baldridge had taken part in Slow Roll rides before, but she was happy to see it showing off her hometown.

“It’s convenient for me, and it’s nice they’re switching it up,” she said. “People who haven’t tried it yet don’t know what they’re missing. People take care of each other, and it’s a wonderful, diverse community event.”

Law enforcement was present, as it always is for Slow Roll rides, to ensure that everyone on the ride remained safe and traffic did not get congested.

“We’re watching all the cars here and making sure the riders and drivers are all safe,” said Lt. Chris Schaft, of the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety. “Detroit police are spearheading this. They’ll have a lead car with the riders the whole way and will be blocking intersections and managing traffic throughout the majority of the route. We’ll be blocking a few intersections as the riders go past on our side of the border too.”

Several food trucks were in attendance at the starting area, and Slow Roll included a local nonprofit, Lifebuilders, which aims to help people get back on their feet and provide positive programs for young people, in the festivities..

“This is the first time Slow Roll has sponsored a nonprofit,” said Larry Johnson, the cofounder of Lifebuilders. “We’re here giving out information about our organization and asking people to text ‘roll’ to 33222 to promote an event we have coming up where kids can ride or repair their bikes for free.”

For more information on Slow Roll, visit www.slowroll.bike.

“We won’t do another Border Ride this summer, but if it’s a success, and it looks like this definitely is, we will be doing more Border Rides in the future,” said Herron. “We’re always going to be primarily a Detroit ride, but we know the city doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and we like giving people from the suburbs more chances to join in.”