Black Women Bike Happy Hour

Another good candidate for our regular DCentric Pick feature is tonight’s Black Women Bike Happy Hour. The description posted by Martin Moulton, vice president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association board, reads:

Because in some circles the false perception persists that only young white hipsters appreciate the District’s multi-modal transportation options and the joys of cycling, a few women pedalers of color in the city are getting together tonight for a little reality check, gear & girl talk, to discuss crucial safety issues and style concerns…

Flickr: Bruce Turner

The Black Women Bike group proclaims that bikes aren't just for "young white hipsters."

The perils of bike-riding can present a unique challenge for some of D.C.’s women of color who serve as primary caretakers of children or senior citizens, as Moulton pointed out in a previous comment on our blog. That reminded co-blogger Anna John:

… that being able to try new things is a form of privilege. Biking in the city is already daunting for some people; single parents who work at jobs that don’t include health insurance or sick days may– with good reason– think twice about taking risks they cannot afford.

Taking Risks Can Be Expensive

Flickr: Ken Mayer

DCentric reader Martin Moulton left this comment on Elahe’s post about WABA’s attempts to encourage bicycle use east of the Anacostia River by hosting riding classes for adults:

Bravo WABA. In California, 40+ years ago, my mom cycle commuted daily to work well into her late 30s. You see a lot of African American men taking advantage of cycling as well as Latinos going to and from work downtown. But I think that minority women in DC are still [wisely] waiting for facilities and safety conditions to improve. Those who are sole heads of households can’t take hazardous risks every day when they have young or senior citizens who depend on them.

According to Elahe, the majority of the ten people who showed up for WABA’s class were women. Still, reading Martin’s last sentence reminded me that being able to try new things is a form of privilege. Biking in the city is already daunting for some people; single parents who work at jobs that don’t include health insurance or sick days may– with good reason– think twice about taking risks they cannot afford.

“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.”

Continue reading

No one wants a Bike Lane War

Flickr: Mr. T in DC

Now reading: “People riding bikes aren’t jerks, they’re just like you“, via Greater Greater Washington.

It’s also important to cultivate advocates from every DC community who can talk to their community leaders about why they should support cycling. Shane Farthing cited this as one of his priorities when he took over at WABA.

Keeping DC’s black population involved with cycling is especially important in order to keep bike infrastructure from becoming a wedge issue, as it did during the recent mayoral election.

A negative narrative can lead to opinions about cycling like that of ANC 8C03′s Mary Cuthbert, who told the Washington Post that “we don’t need no bicycle lanes.” A more positive narrative, on the other hand, can build upon the advantages that good cycling infrastructure brings.

Continue reading

GGW on Bike Behavior and Expectations

Flickr: Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Bicyclist on 14th Street.

It’s like David Alpert over at Greater Greater Washington is reading my mind– I was just thinking about why a bicyclist racing through a red light at an intersection gets more attention than a car doing it. According to Alpert’s post, “What’s our bicycle “social contract“?”, It might have to do with expectations:

With the frequent calls for cyclists to “start behaving,” it’s clear that a number of people driving and walking are unsettled by the conduct of at least some people on bikes. But people in cars speed all the time, and people walking cross against the light, and neither generates as many newspaper letters to the editor. What is the difference?

One explanation is that people naturally notice infractions by others on different modes more than those on the same mode. People driving tend to see misbehavior by people walking and cycling rather than from other people driving, for example. And since relatively few people ride bicycles while a great many drive, the outraged letters will skew toward misbehavior by those on bikes and away from that from people in cars.

Felix Salmon proposed another interesting explanation a while back. Basically, he argues that we’ve developed a clear understanding of what to expect from people walking and driving generally, but lack that consensus for people bicycling…

Alpert goes on to examine “bike behavior” and offers his opinion on whether each maneuver is good (riding in the middle of a lane) or bad (blowing through an intersection).

Remembering a fixture of Chinatown

Late in November, a 78-year-old man named Quan Chu was struck by a bicyclist in an alley near the Convention Center. We learned on Tuesday that the strike was fatal.

As NPR’s Andy Carvin points out in an affecting eulogy to “the Mayor of Chinatown,” his passing robs Chinatown of yet another vital link to its past. What’s left is for us to learn, and remember:

He and his family came to the U.S. from China in 1982. They lived in a rowhouse about two blocks south of NPR. For years he worked at the local Chinese restaurants to save up enough money to send their children to college. And several years ago he suffered a minor stroke. As part of his therapy, he would go for that walk with his wife each day.

I never got to know him. I don’t even know if he even recognized me each day in the same way that I always recognized him. But I feel a profound sense of loss with his passing — not only for his wife and family, but for Chinatown itself.

This isn’t just a story about how recklessness and lack of consideration can have huge and tragic consequences. It’s a story about the importance of the strangers around us, a reminder of how much we should treasure and respect each other. Condolences are due to Mr. Chu’s beloved – the kids he helped put through college, his wife who was also struck that day. But Andy’s right, the loss is all of ours.