Reply To: Your ideas toward diversifying cycling culture/industry.

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Your ideas toward diversifying cycling culture/industry. Reply To: Your ideas toward diversifying cycling culture/industry.


I’d like to add something based on my background in running for over 60 years, which might be applicable here. To begin, there was an article recently in the NYT about how racist jogging was and how jogging started in lily white Oregon and has excluded POC.

My memory, having lived through this time, is that Bill Bowerman, while he was track coach at the University of Oregon, went to New Zealand to learn about the training methods of Arthur Lydiard and was introduced while there to the sport of jogging, popular in NZ at the time. In his memoirs he fared poorly in his first jogging event there, but on return to Oregon thought that this would be a fun and healthy way for people in his community to recreate. He formed a club and in the 1950’s wrote a 20 page booklet, later expanded into a book. At the time there was no formal venue for runners after college, and the sport blossomed. It was aided considerably by Ted Corbitt, a black athlete who co-founded the New York Road Runners club, of which he was the first President. He was also active in the Road Runners Club of America and was elected to be the third President of that organization. His contributions to the sport of amateur competitive running are too many to list here (see the wikipedia article on him) , as are his athletic achievements for which he was among the first five runners to be inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 1998. I was blown away reading about his training, which consisted of running the 15 mile distance to and from his workplace twice a day, which his wife referred to as “Ted’s little exercise”.  Many of us at the time idolized the phenomenal black runners blazing new records. On my bathroom mirror I had two photos for inspiration – one of Emil Zatopek, the “Czech locomotive” who won the 5K, 10K and marathon in the same Olympics, and the other of Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian marathon demigod. Bud Greenspan’s series on the Olympics 30 years ago had an entire episode devoted to the African Runners. I think the author of the NYT article was uninformed about much of this.

I am sure that some racism was exhibited on the running routes, but I also am sure that the vast majority of us at the local road races and clubs tried to treat everyone with respect. My own small running group in Ohio consisted of white and black members. I also am pretty sure that the vast majority of mountain bikers would welcome anyone on the trails regardless of color though I’m sure there are rare exceptions.

The barriers here as I see it are threefold. First, there are many black role models in running, since they absolutely dominate both the longer distances and the sprints. In fact many elite white track athletes make pilgrimages to Kenya to train with the runners there. This will be corrected with time, hopefully. Second is availability of trails and safe, convenient areas to ride. Short of creating new parks with bike paths in underprivileged neighborhoods this is a difficult problem to overcome especially in areas where concerns of safety and basics like clean water take priority in funding. Finally is the expense, as alluded to by many with suggestions already put forth.