BIKING WHILE BLACK: The Blk Bike Panel and Chat
The Blk Bike Panel is bringing cyclists together and encouraging black folks to ride. Not that black people don’t ride already but with so many connections being made with biking infrastructure to gentrification, the Black Bike Panel and Chat put all of that into perspective; black people ride bikes.
The panel began by recognizing American cycling champion Marshall “Major” Taylor, who is known for being one of very few black cyclist in an otherwise white sport. The panel filled the Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone, right next to Blackstone Bicycle Works well-known for selling and repairing refurbished bicycles while teaching, supplying and hiring young people.
“How we can train our folks to become better bike mechanics, how we can learn about transportation so people can just learn about the cost you endure when getting an Uber or a train, how you can cut that cost drastically by hopping on a bike and health issues. How biking can be a form of fitness or a form of self-care so we’re talking about a lot of mental health as well”, said D’Frantz Smart about the panel.
Smart is a community organizer who is part of the 2 Wheel Gods collective. They grew up on the west side of Chicago and moved to Michigan to further their education and also coached college basketball. After moving back to Chicago and being in the city as an adult, Smart really wanted to explore and see how people were coming together.
The panel included black cyclist who shared their different but familiar experiences as cyclist who don’t just bike in the city but specifically bike in the ‘hood; neighborhoods whose foundations are often solidified in the wake of new development.
Panelist were asked questions like, how the intersection of their identity impacts where they ride? How they define safety as black cyclist and how they see black cyclist collaborating to get more black people to ride?
A very diverse group of black panelist ranging from farmers, engineers, activists and bicycle mechanics responded to such questions saying that cycling has been the most consistent form of self-care. One panelist even talked about the time they were stopped by police on a bike for “speeding”. Another, addressed radicalizing black people on bikes by unraveling transit in urban spaces.
Making bicycles accessible and basic bike mechanical education available to those who would otherwise be left out of the exclusive Diivy club were some current and next steps. While many of the cyclists in the room talked about normalizing cycling in “certain” neighborhoods by riding often and riding together.
In regards to black cyclist collaborating, groups like, Black Girls Do Bike, Red Bike and Green, Slow Roll Chicago, Major Taylor and 2 Wheel Gods were among the cycling groups that were mentioned.
“A long term [goal] is making this into a huge summit… so flying in people from all across the world who are black identifying folks to talk about issues that not only happen in Chicago but in this world. And how we can get more people part of this,” said Smart.
Be sure to follow Smart and 2 Wheel Gods to get more information on how to get involved.