Pedaling Through History: Honoring the Role of Black People in the World of Cycling
Black History Month is a time for us to reflect on the contributions that Black people have made to our society. One area where Black people have made a significant impact is the world of cycling. From the early days of the bicycle to the present, Black people have been an integral part of the cycling community, using this form of transportation for transportation, recreation, and sport.
During the late 19th century, cycling became increasingly popular in the United States. The safety bicycle was invented in 1885, which made cycling more accessible to the general public. Black people were among the first to embrace this new mode of transportation. Cycling provided a way for Black people to travel more easily and quickly than walking, and it allowed them to explore new places that were previously out of reach.
In the early 20th century, cycling became a way for Black people to challenge the racial segregation that was prevalent in the United States. Segregation laws meant that Black people were often excluded from public transportation, so they turned to cycling as a means of travel. Additionally, cycling allowed Black people to challenge the deeply entrenched stereotypes about their physical abilities. Marshall “Major” Taylor, a Black cyclist who won the world championship in 1899, faced numerous instances of discrimination during his career. Despite this, he continued to compete and inspire other Black cyclists. Taylor’s success paved the way for other Black cyclists, including Kittie Knox, who challenged the norms of gender and race in the cycling world in the early 20th century.
During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, cycling played a significant role in the fight for racial justice. The Freedom Rides, which were organized by civil rights activists to challenge segregation on public transportation, often included cycling as a means of transportation. In 1965, the Selma to Montgomery March included a group of cyclists who rode alongside the marchers. This group, led by Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, included both Black and white cyclists who were committed to the cause of racial justice.
Today, cycling continues to play a vital role in Black communities. Black people are increasingly using bicycles as a means of transportation, recreation, and sport. Organizations like Red, Bike, and Green are working to promote cycling in Black communities and to create safe and accessible cycling infrastructure.
Black history is filled with stories of resilience, courage, and determination. The history of cycling is just one example of the ways in which Black people have contributed to the world. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us remember the contributions of Black people to the world of cycling, and let us continue to work towards a more just and equal society for all.
- The Major Taylor Association - https://majortaylorassociation.org/
- Kittie Knox: An Unsung Pioneer of Women's Cycling - https://www.rapha.cc/us/en_US/stories/kittie-knox-an-unsung-pioneer-of-womens-cycling
- Biking in the Civil Rights Movement - https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/04/biking-in-the-civil-rights-movement/557567/
- Red, Bike, and Green - https://redbikeandgreen.org/