Open letter to Slow Roll raises safety concerns

Posted at 12:53 PM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 14:37:34-04

Bike after bike after bike. Watching thousands of wheels as Slow Roll Buffalo rides by as you wait to turn left or leave a parking lot can be hypnotic.

Or angering.

In an open letter on Facebook, Ra Ven Raquel expressed her anger at the group of bikers who ride through the city each week and disrupt the flow of traffic.

"Enough is enough, Slow Roll Buffalo," said Raquel. "Monday night, 8/22, Slow Roll blocked traffic for at least 15 minutes directly in front of the Emergency room at BGH/GVI at the intersection of Ellicott and North Streets, riding along North Street from at least as far up as Main Street and down to Michigan. This is a main road adjacent to the hospital and ER entrance, the most irresponsible place to host an unannounced, unmarked, unexpected disruption of traffic."

Raquel is a clinical scientist for the Gates Vascular Institute at Buffalo General Hospital. In her letter she talks about her concern for people's schedules - parents picking up children, people trying to get to the pharmacy before it closes, hospital employees trying to leave for their break after working so hard and for so long.

Family members trying to visit someone sick or dying.

Patients whose lives are at stake driven to the ER in cars, not ambulances.

"Your 15 minutes might seem like no big deal to you, but it cost us quite a bit of stress tonight," wrote Raquel. "Those mere minutes to you on your bike parade could have just cost those people precious life or function. 15 minutes is forever when it comes to these patients. I am livid, and I am dumbfounded by this serious lack of judgment or care."

Seamus Gallivan, the Slow Roll Buffalo organizer, wrote in a Facebook post to the Slow Rollers about the benefits of being a part of the group.

"Encouragement and connecting the community is the essence of Slow Roll," wrote Gallivan. "As a bike parade with an official motorcade permit, Slow Roll Buffalo is focused less on educating cyclists on the rules of the road, and more toward creating a safe place for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of bicycling."

But, as someone who cycles, Raquel says the Slow Roll does not further the cause of those who ride their bikes daily and face danger from drivers. Instead, she says the group is making it worse "by being an obstruction and perpetuating the negative attitude towards bicyclists."

And she's not alone. Her Facebook post has been shared 255 times. One person agreed with Raquel saying, "This type of behavior is not helping their cause, in fact, its doing the reverse. Now drivers hate them more." Another comment reads, "Hopefully your voice will be heard."

Gallivan recognizes that the group has received several complaints from non-riders and addressed the concerns by making some changes. He says the Streets Committee of the group places road signs at high-traffic intersections and hand delivers flyers to homes and businesses. The Outreach Committee also contacts people via phone, email, social media, and attendance at community events.

Gallivan also says Slow Roll Buffalo plans three stops they call "mass-ups" to tighten the pack for safety and traffic reasons. The group will also break into smaller sections to help with traffic flow.

Gallivan also directly responded to Raquel's concerns. She says he addressed her worries and the Slow Rollers will avoid blocking hospital entrances and exits in the future.

Gallivan says that all of the planning for everyone's safety - riders, drivers, and those going to and from hospitals - takes a lot of man power. He asks anyone interested in contributing to the cause to contact slowrollbuffalo@gmail.com and/or apply to join the volunteer squad at slowrollbuffalo.org/squadapplication.