We’ve been learning more about, and reflecting on, how race and biases can influence transportation and biking behavior.
Here are some things that our team have learned recently:
“Taking the lane” on a bike can be a different experience for people of color.
Our colleague David shared this story with us from an online training session he was doing recently:
After talking about the importance of making eye contact with people in cars following behind you, a Black trainee said: "For someone like me, I may have concerns about showing my face to drivers in a dangerous vehicle behind who might not have a good attitude. I don't know if you have thought about that?"
We hadn't, but we will now.
Cars gave Black people dignity as they travelled
Our colleague Evan shared this with us:
Listening to the War on Cars podcast last month, I discovered author Gretchen Sorin and her book ‘Driving While Black’. I’ve known for years the ugly history of highway-building and how it destroyed & divided Black communities across the country, but I was fascinated to hear her describe how the personal car and the freeway system made it possible for Black families to travel with dignity for the first time. I had heard this said before, but the detail in this interview brought it home for me.
In the 1950s and 60s when travel by bus or train would expose Black children and their parents to insults, humiliation, and the risk of injury at the hands of ticket checkers, train conductors, or fellow passengers, the car offered a remarkably dignified alternative. A big car with a big trunk, traveling on the Interstate, could allow a Black family to cross state lines and avoid any need for interaction with potentially hostile whites along the way. As just one example, Sorin describes the practice of carrying enough food and fuel in their car and sometimes even a “pee can” — you’re safer in the car, so if you’re able to pee in the car, that’s another town you don’t have to worry about stopping in.
As advocates for a human-scale transportation system, we recognize how car-dependent lifestyles can keep neighbors distant — and most white advocates see that as a problem. But that distance and that separation also protects us from negative interactions. As long as transit systems, sidewalks, and bike lanes present a high risk for racialized humiliation or violence, the car is going to make a compelling alternative for millions of people.
Bike Packing Adventures - not so easy or safe for people of color
Our colleague Christian shared: Reading the comment below on Bikepacking.com's statement about BLM made me think a lot about inclusivity in the kind of bike adventures I'd love to do. Going off-road in remote locations and semi-trespassing might be quite dangerous for people of color:
"Thanks for posting this. So many of the rides and trips we read and talk about here are possible in part because the mostly-white folks doing them don't have to deal with the hassles and worse that people of color have to face in the same situations. Going down that dirt road in the country with the No Trespassing signs on it? Never mind whether it's actually legal or not; confrontations over such things happen, and they tend to happen differently for people who aren't perceived as "white." Sleeping in your car in a parking area to hit the trailhead at sunrise? When you're rousted by park police, how you're treated may depend a lot on how you look, or rather, how you're seen."
Removing Blind Spots from Road Maps
At Love to Ride, our mission is to get more people, cities and business to gain the benefits of bike riding. Our vision is a world in which everyone feels that they are able to ride confidently and comfortably for pleasure and to get from A to B.
It’s important for us to take the time to reflect on how our blind-spots surrounding the intersection between race and transportation can hold us back from fully achieving our vision. As we work to support and encourage more people to rediscover the benefits of biking it’s crucial that we don’t leave anyone behind.