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Gone Bikin’: ‘Why Bicycle Justice Isn’t a White Guy in Spandex’

IMG_2882.JPGSeattle Bike Blog Editor Tom Fucoloro has Gone Bikin’ until Labor Day. In the meantime, we will be periodically posting short news bits and excerpts from good reads floating around the web.

Today’s good read comes from Elly Blue writing for Yes! Magazine:

Jenna Burton moved to Oakland, California, in 2007. She was tired of the cost and hassle of driving, and the thriving bicycle culture in the Bay Area inspired her to get on a bicycle for the first time since she was 9. She loved it and took to it in part because in Oakland, and especially in her activist circle, it was a normal way to get around.

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But her friends from back home thought it was a strange choice to make. And she noticed one thing right away—there weren’t that many other people on bikes who looked like her. Even though 28 percent of the city’s population was of African descent, the few other Black people she did see on bikes were mostly using them as a last resort, a far cry from her own exuberant choice.

It was up to her, she decided, to create a space for more Black folks to try out bikes and develop a bicycling culture. She invited her friends to join her on a weekend ride. The response was enthusiastic, but only two showed up. They had a great time on the ride, and she decided to try to build more momentum.

In 2010, Burton and a core group of organizers officially launched Red, Bike, and Green. “It’s bigger than bikes” is one of the group’s slogans. The three points of their mission make this clear: They promote and use bicycles as a tool to help Black people be healthier and more active, to save money and support Black-owned businesses, and work to reduce pollution and other environmental factors that disproportionately affect Black folks.

RBG began in earnest with a monthly ride that coincided with the city’s First Fridays arts walk. In diverse Oakland, the art event was predominantly White, and Burton’s group of dozens of young riders took delight in riding through it with their Black Critical Mass. The group soon established a second monthly ride, held on a weekend and paced for families. Over the winter, they held indoor events to socialize with each other and prospective new cyclists. A main focus from the start was to create art around RBG, developing a strong visual identity for the growing community.

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