Jason Hall is retiring – sort of. The co-founder of Detroit’s beloved Slow Roll is stepping down from his role as the public personality behind the city’s now-famous neighborhood bicycle ride.
Slow Roll isn’t going away – and Jason isn’t going anywhere. He’s definitely staying in Detroit. But his role will change and his commitment to the city is going to grow in terms of what he can do for bicyclists and his hometown.
For example, Jason is relaunching (RI)Detroit, Detroit’s weekend celebration of bicycles and culture. The event, which will take place the weekend of July 20-22, will be a full experience of Detroit on two wheels. In addition to group rides and events, bicycle and non-bicycle manufacturers will be selling their new bicycles and merchandise. Community leaders and bicycle advocates will host seminars and panel discussions to discuss regional and national cycling and mobility policies that affect all of Detroit and the region.
His last official Slow Roll took place Wednesday on Mackinac Island as part of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference. The ride was good, the road was smooth and Jason’s mind was clear.
“It just felt like the time. It was a great ride,” Jason said in an interview with me (the audio is embedded at the top of this post). “It seemed like the right time.”
To say Hall is excited about the new enterprise (and a few others you’ll hear about soon) is an understatement. But, at the same time, his emotion at what his team and supporters created through Slow Roll is undeniable.
“When I started Slow Roll, it was really just about a bike ride. But through the past eight years, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve seen bicycling and bicycling advocacy and what that really means,” Jason says. “I’ve just evolved a little more. Once you’ve see what you could do, once we accomplished what we could accomplished through Slow Roll, I just wanted to go to the next level.”
After talking to Slow Roll’s board, family and friends, Jason decided it was time to make it official – he is stepping down from the organization’s leadership.
“I just decided that this would be my year to go ahead and step back and let the machine run itself. We’ve worked very hard to make that machine run,” Jason says. “I’ve got some other projects that I’m working on that are bicycling and city based. It’s still my family. But it’s time to move on.”
What changed was his mindset and evolution as a community leader. Jason says he started to see what else he could accomplish both as an individual, a bicyclist and an advocate.
“ I think it was really on my last trip to Minneapolis when I was out there. … I ran into what was called the Nice Ride Program. In Minneapolis, everybody gets a free bike. The way it works is you show up, they give you a bike, you ride it four times, you document that you rode it four times, you bring it back and you get a brand-new bike,” Jason explains. “That blew my mind that something like that existed. That became my new mission for Detroit. We’re going through all these changes with bike lanes and we’re doing all this stuff in the neighborhoods. But are we really connecting the community to these bike lanes?”
The dream he had for what Detroit could do in terms of the bicycling community began to grow. Plus, he has a flair for the dramatic and he knew there was a chance to expand his personal legacy. But, most importantly, Slow Roll could and would continue.
“It will last forever. Even if we decided as an organization, ‘Let’s stop doing Slow Roll,’ the spirit would still exist. The people would still meet every week,” Jason says. “I’m very proud of that. They’re just rocking and rolling; I’ve seen the schedule. It’s going to be a great summer for those guys.”
He also wants to thank everyone who ever took a ride with him and with Slow Roll.
“(Since I announced I’m leaving Slow Roll), I’ve received 100 emails from people from ‘Thank you for doing this’ to ‘Don’t leave.’ To all of those people: Thank you for making this what it is. It’s my baby.”
An interview with Jason Hall that appeared on the Daily Detroit News Byte is at the top of this page.