Cycling race - Page 2

Advocates for minority bike riders find ways to spread the word

Bikers from Red, Bike and Green's April 23 ride hang by a mural dedicated to the world's first black cycling champion.

Core volunteers publicized early rides through word of mouth, often handing out flyers to other black bicyclists that they passed in the streets. They found partners in the East Bay's burgeoning minority biking advocacy network: Cycles of Change, an umbrella organization that includes the LGBT and minority-run Bikery and Changing Gears Bicycle Shop, and P.O.K.E.R. (People of Kolor Everyday Ridin').

On Saturday, April 23, Red, Bike and Green held its first ride of 2011. Seventy people rode a route that took them through many of Oakland's black residential neighborhoods — a tactic that organizers employ, as Burton puts it, to make other black people aware that they can rock some handlebars "to build community in our community."

Since last year, the rides have attracted cyclists from age seven to 65, families, and strangers who can spend the ride connecting and networking. People have used the rides to announce impending garden harvest surpluses, Oscar Grant protests, and job openings.

As Bay Area bike lanes grow smarter and more numerous, and as gas prices soar and environmental issues become more troublesome, it's pretty much a done deal that more people are going to be riding bikes. And yes, bike movement, that's something to ring those bells over. But we have to turn the gears democratically: to really improve access to cycling, the needs of all communities have to be taken into account — and that means getting creative with outreach strategies.

Red, Bike and Green uses bikes to carve out a space for its riders — not only in the velo advocacy movement, but in the social fabric of the Bay Area. Burton is confident that the sight of so many black people rolling by will introduce a thought into the heads of spectators — a thought that really shouldn't need to be introduced but does anyway: "This is our community, there needs to be space made for us too."


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