Black rides matter: Diverse cycling groups show that biking is for everyone
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By Jen Hawse
Close your eyes and picture a cyclist. What do you see? A skinny white dude decked out in spandex conspicuously leaning over his handlebars at a red light? Perhaps you envision a cyclist as someone who is gentrifying their neighborhood in pursuit of cupcakes and dog parks? Likely, what you don’t envision is a Black or Latinx family out for a casual ride or a disabled person commuting to work.
Biking isn’t just for the White, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, and privileged; it’s for everyone. This begs the question: how can we ensure that the diverse tapestry of American people is represented in our bike lanes and bike culture?
Throughout the US, small groups are coming together to celebrate their identities and ride bikes with one another. Many are completely grassroots, organizing via word of mouth and social media. Several offer weekly bike rides.
There’s a ride for nearly every day of the week. Start off with an easy Sunday ride in Seattle with North Star Cycling. They have a simple goal, “to get melanated people on bicycles in order to build a beloved community and be the radical, justice-focused conscience of cycling.”
Tuesdays in New Orleans you can count on people of all ages and races taking to the streets with GetUpNRide. Thursdays in Houston the Clutch City Cruisers can show you around H-Town. Their motto: “If you ain’t cruising, you losing.” If you’re in the ATL, the Metro Atlanta Cycling Club offers a fast-paced ride called the “Thursday Tango.”
Maybe you want to ride with hundreds of people, but only once a month? Then grease your gears for the last-Friday-of-the-month rides with the Baltimore Bike Party and Chicago’s Critical Mass. During these rides, bikes take over the streets, giving no room for gas-powered vehicles.
Riding with a collective of likeminded individuals enlivens the soul. This kind of on-the-street activism creates vibrancy in communities and safe spaces to move. For those seeking to deepen the connection even further, there are organizations that empower underserved communities to dismantle systemic racism, including Ride for Racial Justice and The Original Scraper Bike Team. Using cycling to spread a message of peace and love, Ride for Black Lives implores people to “Witness our community.”
While underrepresentation in cycling culture is often a racial issue, those who identify as LGBTQIA+ have fewer opportunities to ride as well. As some states try to force unjust legislation on trans athletes, groups like RIDE have been formed to fight back. RIDE works to improve the experience of queer people in bicycling through educating and guiding outdoor industries and sport.
Biking is for everybody, literally. That includes people with disabilities and those who have bigger bodies. Now we know that Black Girls Do Bike and we need All Bodies on Bikes. Whoever you are, however you look, find your community so you can get out there and ride.
Jen Hawse is the Island Press Partnership Manager. During her nearly two decade career in the environmental movement she has worked on wide ranging topics such as carbon offsets and food systems. Jen is a mom, a community association leader, and a climate activist.