June 8, 2020 at 8:53 am #420592
My favorite sign seen while protesting against racism here in Turin read: “Fighting for the rights of one group does not mean fewer rights for another group. It’s not a cake.” Spot on.
I’m feeling hopeful about this recent discussion around race, including the ways I/we can work to make mountain biking/cycling more welcoming to a more diverse bunch of athletes and adventure seekers. After too many years spent chatting about the sport’s lack of diversity over beers with friends, we all have a chance to share our ideas out loud, listen closely, learn, make meaningful changes, and get to work.
So, here’s my question to everyone who wants to have a constructive discussion about making bike culture more inclusive and inviting, in “th0guht experiment” form:
You are writing a grant proposal with hopes of receiving funding for your nonprofit in the sum of $1.5 million. The grant will be awarded to the nonprofit with the best plan-of-action toward diversifying cycling culture in your area. What are some of the points that would be on that action plan? How would you address the following?
- How can we make cycling culture feel more welcoming and inclusive for people who are currently underrepresented therein?
- How do we support role models for girls and women, people of color, queer folks, older riders, younger riders, and other less represented groups?
- How can we make the sport more affordable, and remove or lower the economic barriers to entry?
- What are some of the ways you will introduce cycling to communities where there may not be a safe place to ride?
- How can we hold businesses accountable, and ask them to support and welcome a more diverse workforce and clientele?
Again, all ideas and questions toward positive change are welcome.
If you want to debate whether or not we need to focus on diversity in cycling culture/industry, please do that elsewhere.
All trolling attempts will be ignored.
June 8, 2020 at 10:41 am #420637
Great topic. So tomorrow night I am meeting with one of my fellow bike riders to discuss exactly how we can do this.
My idea would to be to start with the children (yes cheesy but where I would start). I am looking to potentially start an after school program that would revolve around mountain biking. It is open to all who are interested. To start I would want to get school administration and teachers behind it. They could encourage the kids that need it. The plan is to target the most diverse school(s). This I would hope gets the diversity we are looking for. This is a free and volunteer program. No cost and no requirement to join and no restrictions who can be involved.
Getting bikes is the biggest challenge and it may not be a one for one for each child but where we hot seat bikes. Share bikes alternating riders after a lap or two. My hope is to contact bike companies (specifically any that sell in LBS in town) to donate two bikes a year. If Specialized gets on board hopefully that challenges Giant to and then Trek wants in and then Salsa and so on. I hope that maybe the LBS’s that rent bikes might donate a rental after it has ran through a season to the program. I ask for two bikes in hopes one could be kept in the program each year and the other bike can be given to a participant that fulfills certain criteria like 75% of time present and ‘x’ amount of community service ours and a certain GPA. I would also challenge local churches to buy at least one bike per church to the program. I also hope that should we get volunteers that are minorities or women and need a bike that one of these companies or LBS’s would step up to support that volunteer with a bike.
The program would include topics from how to first ride a bike, how to ride trail, how to maintain a bike. Bring in local shop mechanics to teach maintenance. All this time with kids allows time to demonstrate and talk about diversity and inclusivity and acceptance.
I don’t have great ideas for overcoming the expense except to maintain bikes and hopefully recycling bikes down through families and the program. Maybe local businesses or mountain companies like SRAM and Shimano might donate.
As far as places to ride, I don’t know that is super complicated. Yes there is only one park with proper single track in town but all our local schools have grassy areas on campus to ride in and some have parks right next to them. With a little creativity a route can snake around campus or the local park for a fun ride. I used to do just that in the park next to my kids school since in was just down the road from our house and could be rode to in 3 minutes. Teaching kids to be creative and use of local parks. Maybe this is a domino affect where some local parks at least have a single track loop that draws more kids.
We create the riders and shops welcome them in. My experience in my LBS’s is that it doesn’t matter who walks through the door only that they are interested in bikes. We create the riders and expose the mechanics to the program.
This is possible plan I am hashing out with a fellow rider and needs refined with minority leaders who have deeper understanding and schools and churches. I think it addresses as best we can on our level the issue proposed. Maybe besides more diversity in bike riders we just make the world a better place at the same time.
June 8, 2020 at 2:14 pm #420733
I used to be involved with Bikes not Bombs in Boston(https://bikesnotbombs.org/). Now that I’m in the Deep South, our town has a program called Village Wrench (http://www.villagewrench.org/). If you don’t have something similar in your town, START ONE NOW.
Getting kids into bicycles is the best in terms of doing something meaningful and long-lasting. But take a look at NICA – how many black kids are in the program? There’s no barrier to racial inclusivity, yet the program is largely made of white kids. I think culture and money are the factors in play.
I ride often with Colombians. They’re fast as hell, very good mountain bikers. But cycling is in their culture, and coming up with a few grand for a bike isn’t a killer proposition for them. Hard, but doable.
Look at that VillageWrench website. My opinion, that’s the way to start something lasting.
June 9, 2020 at 6:00 pm #422694
I would employ a plan similar to that of the Village Wrench in Greenville, SC. I would offer underprivileged children the opportunity to earn a free bike by doing community service. I would also offer opportunities for them to learn how to work on bikes and do at least basic repairs by offering weekly classes. I would also create a space for them to work on their bikes, and provide the tools they need at no cost. Additionally, I would go into all the local schools and offer classes teaching the basics of riding and rider safety. I would also organize beginner rides using local trails. I would also seek to create a NICA team for the older children to introduce them to the competition side of the sport. Lastly, I would enlist the aid of all the local bike shops and even the major bike companies to get bike parts or even full bikes donated to use in a bike-share so that more children can be introduced to the sport. I am fortunate enough to live in a town with ample trails, but sadly there are a lot of underprivileged children who do not even know they exist even though these children live right next to them. If we are to diversify the sport of mountain biking, we have to focus on the next generation of riders, and make the sport accessible to them. Taking small steps like these could create that diversification.
June 9, 2020 at 10:42 pm #422816
This is a great forum topic! First off, I’d like to call attention to the term ‘diversity’. From what or whom are we attempting to diversify? When we say “we” want to diversify, is that “we” white people? Just a thought. Dr. Robin DiAngelo authored a book called White Fragility outlining how white people can be more diverse. Look into it. My responses:
1. How can we make cycling culture feel more welcoming and inclusive for people who are currently underrepresented therein?
Take risks by getting outside of your comfort zone. Invite POCs (that’s people of culture) out for a ride. Let them ride your bike (not your klunker). Make it a point to welcome everyone, not just those you think might be interested. Talk with them along the ride, after the ride, go out for an adult malt carbonated beverage. Listen. A lot.
2. How do we support role models for girls and women, people of color, queer folks, older riders, younger riders, and other less represented groups?
I search for stories about people who don’t look like me (middle-aged white male, no lycra). In the last couple of years the magazine periodical MountainFlyer has shifted their stories towards the youth and women. I’ve enjoyed the change! We need more publications and sites like this to bring attention to all riders. And we as readers need to comment on the author’s efforts to bring us these stories. Sure, it takes more effort for publishers, journalists, authors, and contributors to find subjects and stories that aren’t mainstream, but that’s the point.
3. How can we make the sport more affordable, and remove or lower the economic barriers to entry?
All bikes are fun to ride! Some more than others. I prefer to read reviews about sub-$1000 bikes because the articles tend to focus on riding, rather than nitpicking the build, HTA, or obscure tech. Affordable bikes are out there! Many LBS have a few used bikes they are more than happy to part with. But you have to ask. My favorite are bicycle co-ops. These are gold mines for new bikers looking for amazing deals and builders who need hard-to-find parts. Co-ops almost always have education programs that teach safe riding and maintenance. For youths, co-ops typically have a build-a-bike program where kids can learn how to build or repair a bike of there choosing from a used warehouse before riding it home, usually for free.
4. What are some of the ways you will introduce cycling to communities where there may not be a safe place to ride?
I read a book called Bikenomics authored by Elly Blue that can speak to this question. Advocacy is a daunting task, especially where there is none. Find out from the local or city council some statistics on ridership within the locale. It may not exist, so the first step might be working to petition for a small section of trail, sharrow, bike lane, or path to raise awareness. Paint is inexpensive, and bringing awareness with a bike lane on a less traveled street will enable riders to feel safer knowing their local government is looking out for them. And businesses can install bike staples (those hoops outside stores to secure your bike) by their storefront to alleviate parking issues. There are many more ideas in this book.
5. How can we hold businesses accountable, and ask them to support and welcome a more diverse workforce and clientele?
A wise man once told me that most people vote with their feet, and then their dollar. Support businesses that support these causes. And exercise caution when it’s just an ad campaign. This is difficult in areas that have few race demographics or are geographically isolated. It’s easy to identify when a LBS is supporting it’s demographic. This isn’t the case with a major manufacturer. We can’t look through the window! It’s up to customers to inquire about their practices, to identify what they are doing to be inclusive. Larger companies need to open up, literally, to their clientele. A good way for them to do so is through demos, expos, and supporting emerging cycling communities. Deeds, not words.
Bottom line is to research, research, and research! We already spend too MUCH time researching bikes, reading about race results, longing for a backcountry bikepacking experience…most of which we barely act on. Take some of that time to branch out to find local advocacy groups, look into companies’ practices and messaging, and most of all, get people riding. Ride somewhere you haven’t ridden, that you wouldn’t consider riding, because if you can’t, how can you expect others to even meet you halfway?
June 10, 2020 at 11:03 pm #423900
As a black man/POC, and new to the mtb scene (more or less), I appreciate your guys’ awareness on a topic like this. Just wanted to chime in and say how awesome these ideas are.
Just here to say “thank you” and keep up the great work and ideas!
June 11, 2020 at 2:11 am #423929
Thanks for sharing, and let’s keep the ideas flowing! Please share this query with anyone who might want to add their unique perspectives and/or ideas.
@enduroexpert78 I hope a lot of people are currently reading White Fragility. Particularly white people. It’s a powerful work, to say the least.
For folks who have not yet read Dr DiAngelo’s book, here is an intriguing podcast with the author.
June 14, 2020 at 12:16 pm #425687
I few days ago I posted to this thread, including links to Bikes not Bombs, Village Wrench (which I’m involved with), and what I think was some very relevant and important steps that need to be taken. Re-visiting this thread, I see it magically disappeared.
Jeff, if you don’t want to fix the forum software then there’s no reason for me to try to contribute anymore. You’ve made it too frustrating. Sorry.
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