Jason Hall organizes a movement.

Jason Hall, cofounder of the Slow Roll city bike ride, rallies thousands of people to experience the rebirth of Detroit from the ground level. With his community spirit and his iPad, Hall turns a weekly event into a source of inspiration for his city.

Seeing a city’s potential.

I started Slow Roll to show Detroit in a positive light. I love my city, and I wanted to help other people love it again. My iPad helped make it happen.

Jason Hall, cofounder, Slow Roll Detroit

Population decline. Abandoned buildings. Decades of hard times. That’s how the world sees Detroit, the legendary American city struggling just to survive. But native Jason Hall sees something different — a city being reborn. Through Slow Roll, he’s helping his neighbours reconnect with the place they call home.

It takes heart to live in Detroit. Locals are quick to acknowledge their city’s challenges, and Jason Hall was no different. “I was feeling a bit beaten down by this city,” he says. But everything changed when a friend suggested he do the simplest thing: take a bike ride to clear his head. “I got out and started to see Detroit in a different way,” he says. “On the ground level, you see the potential that exists. The city’s wide open for new ideas.”

After that eye-opening ride, Hall had an idea of his own. “I wanted to convince other people to see Detroit the way I was seeing it,” he says. “The plan was, let’s start a bike ride and see if people want to go with us.”

It began simply enough. Just 10 friends on a Monday night ride. Soon it was 20. Then 30. In its second year, the ride grew from 130 to 300 cyclists in two weeks. As the numbers increased, Hall turned to his iPad and made it the command centre for all things Slow Roll. “We use it for everything we do, from mapping to communicating to ordering new T-shirts,” he says.

The apps behind Slow Roll.

From neighbourhoods in the process of being revitalized to urban gardens where there were once vacant lots, Slow Roll encourages people from all walks of life to explore the many sides of Detroit.

It takes a lot of work to make this thing happen. My iPad gives me freedom. I can work on the fly and get everything done in a day.

Jason Hall

What it takes to get a city rolling.

Hall never thought he’d become a community organizer. But once Slow Roll took off, he found himself depending on a growing set of apps to communicate with supporters and city officials.

Slow Roll isn’t a race — it’s an easy ride with a different route every week, celebrating Detroit’s rich history and new developments. Each Monday night, rain or shine, thousands of riders wind through the streets swaying to music pumped from speakers attached to their handlebars. Passersby look on in delight as bicycles of every stripe — from trikes and tandems to custom-built bikes — cruise through their neighbourhoods. It’s a sight to behold, and it’s all managed by Hall and his iPad. He attributes the growth of Slow Roll to the digital flyers he designs and posts to Facebook with the Phoster app. “Within a week of posting, we saw turnout numbers jump,” he says.

Coordinating a massive group bike ride and keeping thousands of cyclists safe is no small feat. So Hall relies on his iPad and a team of 45 volunteers called corkers, who “cork” intersections, guide riders to the right and ensure that everyone has a good time. The term corker is also a nod to Detroit’s oldest neighborhood — Corktown.

Planning and promoting Slow Roll.

Jason Hall uses iPad to manage every aspect of the Slow Roll operation, from scheduling meetings with Mail and Calendar to designing digital flyers in Phoster.

A lot of planning goes into each weekly ride. So Hall uses Penultimate to jot down ideas and sketch out routes to share with his team. “I like the ability to write stuff down on the screen — to communicate to my corkers and point out trouble spots,” he says. And once the Slow Roll ride is under way, Hall and his squad keep in contact using the Zello Walkie Talkie app on iPhone.

Hall’s community-building message has caught the attention of local schools, where his talks have been a big hit with the students. To capture their interest, Hall uses Prezi on iPad to show off slides and photos wirelessly. “Now my presentations are so much more engaging,” he says. “Kids just love it.”

Slow Roll has transcended your typical bike ride. We’re changing lives. It’s affecting people in a real way, and it’s changing people’s perceptions.

Jason Hall

What makes Hall most proud are the spontaneous interactions that bring residents closer together. “You can ride your bike, drop back 10 feet, and meet 10 new people,” he says. ”Slow down a little bit more, and you’ll meet 10 more new people.”

Inspired by his concept, cyclists around the world — from Cleveland, Ohio, to Älvsjö, Sweden — have initiated their own weekly rides to bring locals together in the spirit of connecting to the place they call home.

For Hall, Slow Roll will always be about Detroit, the city he loves and the community he lives for. “To have 2000 people ride behind you is like nothing you’ve ever experienced,” he says. “They’re not only behind you on their bikes, but they believe in you. They’re behind you in your ideas and your dreams, and that’s an amazing feeling.”

When people talk about Slow Roll, they don’t say ‘the ride’ — they say ‘the movement.’ Without my iPad that would not have happened.

Jason Hall