“Black people don’t like the cold.”

Flickr: DDOTDC

A Capital Bikeshare bike.

Now reading: “Biking While Black?“, Rend Smith’s take on a controversial Greater Greater Washington post, which theorized that one of the reasons why Capital Bikeshare wasn’t popular east of the Anacostia was because…”black people don’t like the cold.”

The African-American blogger who wrote the GGW piece, Veronica Davis, provided a list of seven reasons why the bike-sharing program wasn’t catching on, but most readers zeroed in on part of her final point: “Seasonal usage”.

“I was basically called racist,” Davis says…

The last reason on her list, “seasonal usage,” prompted Davis to write a sentence that eventually earned a strikethrough from GGW editors: “In general, African-Americans, which make up the large majority of the residents east of the river, are averse to colder temperatures.”

A number of the 120 comments that followed took offense to Davis’ assertion, which she followed up with a salient point about the futility of introducing Bikeshare stations during the latter part of the year. “Because relatively few residents were cyclists prior to the introduction of CaBi, the chances that the uninitiated bike rider is going to start cycling in late fall or the winter are relatively low.”…

But Davis explains she wasn’t positing a scientific theory when she mentioned African Americans not liking the chill. It’s just something that’s said among black people, she says: “If I had said that to an entirely black audience, no one would have been offended.” The small piece of controversy might have overshadowed the core of Davis’ piece, which, more than simply explaining a lack of enthusiasm for Bikeshare East of the River, sought to combat an emerging perception Davis doesn’t like– that District blacks are and will remain anti-bike.

  • Skeeweet

    What the story lacks is an analysis of the difficulty to bike from East of the River, specifically Ward 7, to the Main Land (West of the River). There are no bike lanes anywhere East of the River and traversing the Benning, East Capitol or Pennsylvania Ave. bridges requires you to be certain you have paid for your cemetery plot and headstone because it is a death wish to bike across those bridges where no bike lanes exist. Crossing the Benning bridge, while there is a walkway for a portion of the bridge, once you get over the hump there is no way to peddle to safety–you are just dumped into the middle of the roadway with motor vehicles that weigh hundreds of pounds more than you and your bike. Same holds true for the Pennsylvania Ave and East Capitol bridges. Biking safety is a major reason for low Bikeshare ridership East of the River.

    What is needed for East of the River residents is the ability to safely bike to work or play West of the River as well as within the confines of Wards 7 and 8.

    Regarding the “Blacks don’t like the cold” comment, as a Black native of Detroit who has weathered more snow and cold weather in one month of a winter season in Michigan than in Washington in my 25 years living in DC — I don’t know what Black people the writer is talking about. Many of my Black fellow Midwesterners (including the folks living in the White House currently) don’t think it is cold until the thermometer reaches below 30 degrees and many of us don’t put on snow boots until the snow reaches 5 or more inches. Personally, I can’t stand wearing a coat and don’t put one on until it’s in the twenties and the Nordic bloodline in my family is minute. I guess Ms. Davis hasn’t met Black people who don’t freak out and hide in our homes at the mere mention of flurries and wonder why a city and region has to shut down. Washington, it snows here every year at least 3 times—get over it and keep it moving. As an avid biker, I’d rather bike than try to find a vehicle parking space West of the River, it just is not safe.

    Our Councilmembers, Mayor and city planners need to provide bike lanes East of the River instead of concentrating on lanes only in Wards 1-6. I have pointed this out to them on several occasions at community meetings. That will increase the Bikeshare users East of the River and aide in greening our environment while helping residents attain a healthier lifestyle.

  • Jaleo2000

    umm, i bike to Anacostia from near the zoo three times a week in good weather. There are bike lines on the S. Capitol Street/Frederick Douglass Bridge.

  • Jaleo2000

    Sorry, not a bike lane, but a sidewalk exists, and I hardly ever encounter pedestrians on it. It’s just as dangerous as biking in most other areas of DC, ie those without bike lanes.