News Flash: People of Color and Women Ride Bicycles, Too, Dammit!

Bikes Are Colorblind, They Just Want to Be Ridden

It’s Black History Month in the United States of America, so it would be bad form for a progressive to not pay homage to that (which I did earlier when mentioning the impact of the Black Panther movie) Some people have the mistaken belief that only rich white men in Spandex ride bicycles. They are wrong.

Where I live, I frequently see people of color riding bicycles, usually at night, apparently commuting home from work. They usually don’t have lights or helmets or fancy bikes. But they are cyclists just the same, risking their lives to go about their lives, which includes transporting themselves with their own people power. Leonel Hernandez, who died last month, was one of them.

Today, within the space of 10 minutes, I met a black dude named Ivory and a couple from Thailand named Nukul and Rung, each on a bike. You really meet the coolest people on bikes — of whatever color, status or nationality. You never would probably barely even see them from your motorized steel pollution cage.

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The sun finally came out and I was riding on Sun Chase on a Sun.

The part of town I’m staying in now did not seem very diverse due to all the white people with pick-up trucks, boats and motorcycles. But I was wrong. The friendly shopkeeper at the convenience store is Arabic. His young son was there, so there is at least one family of immigrants. Today I rescued a neighbor’s wheelbarrow from the road which I came upon shortly after it fell out of the bed of his truck. His name at least is of Hispanic origin. I’m just an interloper who barely knows anyone on this sparsely populated country road. Buddy is gray, but does that make him a dog of color? I digress.

A Dude and Ivory, Side By Side on the Sidewalk

Friendly, with a wide and toothy smile, Ivory was happy to help A Dude find his way back on one of those “get lost, but not too much” ride. As I followed him along a curvy sidewalk, I noticed he kept putting his shoes down to brake. Then I saw that he had no rear brake and the front one was on the fritz. I suggested Austin Yellow Bike Project, which he knew about and normally lives near.

Ivory declined to be photographed, even though I pointed out if he was on Facebook, a blog was also on the internet. (Hmm, I think I just tricked myself to finally getting on social media. Dammit!) but I still street interviewed him a bit. He said he was staying with his mom and we didn’t get into why. He seemed fit because I had to pedal a bit to keep up. Like many poor folks using a bike to get around, he didn’t have a helmet or lights. But good for him for biking anyway.

Thailand Has Great Food, Beaches and Friendly People, Many of Whom Bike Alot

I went into a grocery store to get some chicken thighs for me and Buddy the dog I’m caretaking for another week. He’s been a bit “off his feed,” because who is this strange Dude in his house, anyway? His dad came by today (the human one — not related), and brought a replenishment of food. But a former vet advised us to give him some bland white rice and chicken, which he gobbled up. Me too. Mmmm…. chicken thighs. Speaking of Thai food and chicken thighs, didn’t Zach Galifianakis mispronouce Thai as “thigh” in Hangover II to hilarious effect? As in, “Since we’re in Thighland, I could go for some thigh food.” But I digress.

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Nukul and Rung from Thailand, commuting home from the grocery store by bicycle

As I came out of the store with the chicken thighs, I saw a man and woman with bikes loaded down with pineapples and other groceries. They seemed friendly, and bike racks are one of those places where it’s awkward not to talk. So I said “Hello,” and they responded by introducing themselves. “I’m Nukul,” (noo kool) he replied, and “I’m Rung,” (roong) she told me. They are from Thailand, where biking is common and Nukul also had a motorcycle. If I understood them correctly (my Thai is limited to “one order of lard na noodles, please,”), they own a car, but they prefer to bike.

I thought that was cool and told them so, and that I also did not have a car. They seemed proud about that, as I suppose I am most days (unlike now when I have use of one for the dogsitting). I didn’t see whether they had lights or not, but again, no helmets. Rent and food, especially if there are children, come first. They had their packing down to a science; Rung had a milk crate stuffed full of groceries and secured with bungee cords. Nukul had a large bike rack similarly well-organized. We chatted a while about them having to ride on sidewalks and so on, and then parted ways.

Women Bike Too, and Plenty of Them are Badass

Of course these are just two examples, but they’re notable because in this neck of the woods, most cyclists actually are white men on bikes in Spandex riding for recreation. But on the way home, I saw all manner of kids with bikes in their driveways, others just parked on the lawn or hanging in the open garages. And then I saw a woman on a bike in full kit, so I stopped to say hi . She is a triathlete who was getting home from a training ride. White, not poor, and wearing Spandex, but not male. Seemed like a badass, but nice. Unless you’re racing her. A Dude don’t race. No photo because we just met, but I’d put her Strava link here if I had permission.

My point is that all kinds of people ride bikes, for all kinds of reasons. Individuals, organizations, government, business and our communities as a whole can and should do better to accommodate all of us on bikes. That’s because we are vulnerable, may not have a choice, and are doing something to reduce traffic and pollution. We need driver safety re-education, bicyclist education, free lights and bike helmets, more and better protected bike lanes and signage, and public policies that actually hold drivers who hurt or kill cyclists accountable for their bad driving. Word.
Two articles for further reading:

From People for Bikes: How Protected Bike Lanes Helped Denmark Win Its War on Inequality

From Blooming Rock blog by Taz Loomans: Bicycling’s Racist, Sexist and Classist Beginnings and How They Impact Bicycling Today

ADAB Round-up

With that I leave you with some photos of the day:

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Today’s ride was notable for being on a loaner drop-bar Trek bike.
022518 Strava walk
My night walk with Buddy led to this perfect photograph with a candy-apple red fire hydrant and surreal lighting from a car.
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I had a tin of sardines in olive oil and lemon with a frittata of onion, egg, black wild rice, cheese, and guacamole and verde salsas.

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15 thoughts on “News Flash: People of Color and Women Ride Bicycles, Too, Dammit!

    1. Lovely observation! Did you mean walking? Because I am often waking up thinking of biking, and doing alot of waking with the rental dog. Where do you bike, Island Traveler? Are you on Strava? Thanks for the like!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love your post. it was very interesting since you interact with daily lives of people, asked them questions, and you know what??? They all are riding a bike like yourself, isn’t that fantastic? Real communications and meeting is one of the best way of living life. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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