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Social justice in bike advocacy

Over the past several weeks, like so many others, the Bicycle Colorado team has been struggling to comprehend the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans made possible by structural racism in our society. Their deaths at the hands of police officers and neighbors are horrific and unacceptable. The public outcry that has followed—seeking justice, accountability, and reforms so that communities of color can live without the fear of violence—will be a defining moment for our country that we hope catalyzes change we desperately need. 

Black people in the United States of America have a lived experience shaped by racial discrimination and prejudice. Black lives matter, and we are committed to combating racism in all that we do at Bicycle Colorado. This is a problem that our team and all Americans must own and resolve together.

Neither Mr. Floyd’s, Ms. Taylor’s nor Mr. Arbery’s death involved a bicycle, but their murders do relate to what we do at Bicycle Colorado. Our work to create safe biking for all Coloradans is more than a bike issue—it’s an issue of social justice. That’s clearer now than ever, and we want to share three reflections that will impact our work moving forward so that we are actively practicing anti-racism and serving all Coloradans.

First and foremost, we have learned the definition of “safe places to ride” we have been using hasn’t gone far enough. Up to this point, improving safety for bicyclists has largely entailed addressing the threat motor vehicles pose to vulnerable road users. But safety includes threats that individuals pose to one another, too, and that surfaces in different ways for different people with different lived experiences. Many Black and Brown Coloradans feel unsafe riding a bike due to the very real threat of profiling from community members and excessive police force that stem from deeply rooted racism in our law enforcement, judicial systems and society at large. 

Second, until now we have made calculated decisions to support policies to protect bicyclists by means of enforcement on drivers. Traffic violence is a public health epidemic, we know that, but we cannot ignore the epidemic of police brutality on people of color as we seek to support our cause. We will continue to fight for policies that improve roadway safety while doing everything in our power to ensure communities of color, bicyclists or not, aren’t subject to more—and escalated—interactions with police because of our actions as advocates. 

Third, in advocating and securing funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure and other traffic safety improvements, we can and must do more to ensure that these projects are implemented equitably and incorporate community members in the decision-making process. Too often, this funding fails to benefit or reach communities of color. Unless infrastructure projects are distributed equitably and with input from those who stand to be impacted by changes the most, we aren’t truly creating equitable conditions for bicyclists. 

We must do better, beginning with this statement and going far, far beyond it. Acknowledging the importance of equity is not enough; we must actively work toward it.  

In November of 2018 we published a Strategic Plan, and included in that plan was our public commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Today, we not only reaffirm this commitment, we pledge to do more to make bicycling in Colorado truly equitable. We ask you to join us as we continue to learn, grow and take action to eliminate racism. 

We will be hosting two equity-focused webinars, open to the public, with members of our RIDE Advisory Board on June 25 at 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. that we hope you will attend. We will share more details about the specific steps we will take to address racism and advance equity during these sessions. You can register for either for free by clicking the links above

Finally, we wanted to share some readings that have informed our conversations as a staff: 

Thank you for your continued support. 

The Bicycle Colorado Team

Bicycle Colorado

About the Author: Bicycle Colorado

Bicycle Colorado is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Denver. We use advocacy, education and passion to make Colorado one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the nation. We encourage and promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions and provide a voice for people who ride bicycles in Colorado. With the support of our members and numerous partnerships across the public and private sector, we’ve made significant strides in improving bicycling since 1992.

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