Slow is the Way to Go

In our swift paced, speed-of-an-electron world, it seems that fast food and fast thumbs have taken over our lives. To be wealthy now is to be time rich, to have the leisure time to walk in the woods or ride a bicycle, to slow things down enough to appreciate and savor the simple pleasures of life. At slower speeds you’ll see and hear things impossible to experience encased in glass and steel going 65 mph on the interstate. Digital communication is another sensory numbing and socially isolating force in our lives. Instead of talking to friends face-to-face, too often we elect to communicate disconnected and at a distance. Lost are the simple delights of just being with friends or discovering the humanity in ourselves when strangers are welcomed to join our communities. So, it is no surprise that people are not fully accepting these unnatural ways of living and being. People want to reconnect with nature, strengthen their real relationships, and build their communities. The slow ride movement in the United States and Europe is one way people are doing this.

I was first introduced to the slow ride experience several years ago in New York City, a place known to be unfriendly and fast-paced. On a Sunday morning in June, my wife, friends and I joined 35,000 other cyclists on a leisurely ride through the five boroughs of New York. We discovered first-hand that New York City is indeed a collection of small villages. Along the way we met and talked with many people with diverse backgrounds and opinions, but who all agreed on this June day that bicycling slowly in the Big Apple was the right thing to do. This first experience with slow riding was certainly fun, but more than that, it was transformative. My second experience with slow riding happened last spring on a Monday evening in Buffalo. However, this time I was in a car, not on my bicycle. Two police cars with lights flashing suddenly stopped traffic crossing Niagara Blvd to allow over a thousand bicyclists to slowly and safely make their way forward. In the pack were the young and the old, the athletic and the sporty but somewhat unfit, some riding fancy road bikes but with the majority riding dusty and dented fat-tire cruisers. Most of the riders were busy chatting, some were singing or whistling, but all were taking it easy, obviously enjoying each other’s company peddling through the neighborhoods of their beloved city. When the last cyclist passed, I said to myself, we have to do this in Olean.

This coming Sunday, May 6th, the first slow ride in the history of Olean will be held. It will start at 2:00 PM on the campus of JCC. With a police escort it will head South on Union Street then, turn West on Henley Street, catch the inner loop on the River Trail then return on the same route back to JCC. The total distance is about 10 miles. Seasoned cyclists from the Olean Bicycle Club will chaperone the group and give encouragement. Volunteer bicycle mechanics from the Upcycle Shop will be available to help with flats and other minor mechanical problems. We have asked people who live along the route, but who are not riding, to stand on their porches or come to the curb to ring bells and cheer the slowly moving pack onward. We hope this event will be a celebration of our community as well as a healthy bicycle ride. We are doing this first Slow Ride in support of the compassionate work of the Veggie Mobile, a farm to table program to improve the health of those among us who cannot afford fresh fruit and vegetables. Future rides will honor other service programs that support or improve the quality of life in the Greater Olean Area. So, please join us this coming Sunday. Have some fun and support a noble worthwhile cause.

Charles Walker

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