Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

Urban Pathways Initiative in Cleveland

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

I spent time last week at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy‘s Urban Pathways Initiative in Cleveland, Ohio. This was their second summit with last year’s being in New Orleans.

This was a very good opportunity to learn what others are doing to making biking and walking more prevalent in urban centers primarily through building trails. Too often trail building discussions focus on the easier-to-implement trails in more rural or suburban environments. This conference looks at trail building in urban areas where greater density and land use creates more challenges.

Many low-income populations and communities of color in urban areas confront the problems of obesity, congestion and scarcity of open space on a
daily basis. Promoting neighborhood use of shareduse pathways can help address these challenges.

Also, this pathways summit was an opportunity to present on all our positive efforts in Detroit. There was a Detroit-specific panel while I presented on another regarding stewardship and partnership.

Here are some of the big takeaways.

Building Diversity

The U.S. bicycle advocacy movement is mostly white. Some national organizations talk the talk, but it seems only the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is walking the walk. They are not only sensitive to the lack of diversity, they’re are trying to do something about it – though they admittedly acknowledge that they have much to learn.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) advocates for equitable investment in underserved communities while promoting the health, transportation and environmental benefits of trail use. RTC staff has engaged local partners, focusing on programs and improvements that enhance access and foster community ownership of trails in urban areas.

There was a session on lessons learned in communities of color. It brought forward some interesting perspectives from Compton, Camden, Milwaukee, and more. Much of the discussion was on increasing participation in bicycling and less on diversifying our organizations, which is also critical.

Pedal for Prizes

This was one of the more unique bike-oriented events we heard about. It’s like an alley cat with less mayhem that can build support for local business.

Registration will begin at 11:30am, and riders will be sent off with their maps and stamp cards in tow at 12:30pm sharp.  Ride your bike to as many of our twenty-two destinations as you’d like until 3pm.  Make your way back to Loew Park by 3:30pm to turn in your card for raffle tickets that you can put towards any of seventy-five prizes valued anywhere between $10 and $625 that will be displayed on a table.

There is more information on the Pedal for Prizes web site.

Cleveland, Ohio

In my short stay, Cleveland struck me as a smaller, cleaner, less vacant city with better transit. On the flip side, their Lakefront Bikeway was disappointing. The pavement condition was horrific.

However, they do have tremendous amount of bike parking within their downtown. It was mostly simple, no-nonsense loops that just work.

I also visited their Morgana Run trail, which is quite promising except for their road crossing treatments. It seems Detroit’s traffic engineers are much further ahead when it comes to on-road designs.

Red Bike Green: Building a Black bike culture

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

This is a very interesting article and video about the Red Bike Green project out of Oakland, California.

Their mission?

Red, Bike and Green is a community-building collective of Black urban cyclists seeking to improve the physical and mental health, economy and local environment of African Americans by creating a relevant and sustainable Black bike culture.

Jenna Burton explains more about the group and what they’re accomplishing, which in many ways is similar to what the East Side Riders are doing in Detroit.

Yes, it’s great that Detroit has such great turnouts for Critical Mass and Tour de Troit, but it would be better if those crowds were larger still and more representative of the communities through which they ride.

Grassroots efforts such as Red Bike Green and the East Side Riders can help make that happen.

“We see the bike as a solution”

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Minnesota Public Radio has an interesting article on the first national summit of Major Taylor bike clubs also known as the National Brotherhood of Cyclists.

The event was a chance to ride, give away bikes, and promote the message that bicycling has a valuable role in African-American communities despite what some may think.

Anthony Taylor, one of the festival organizers and one of the founders of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, said you often hear the phrase “black people don’t swim” in the African American community.

“Of course they swim, but in America we hear it all the time. It has become the truth and so now you see kids who say black folks don’t swim. That’s a barrier to living better, living healthier,” Taylor said.

Taylor said a similar myth has developed around biking. He said many African Americans just don’t see biking as something that black people do.

“And we have to say that isn’t true, because I know the African American community is focused on improving their quality of life, improving their health, and we see the bike as a solution to that,” he said.

We think it would be quite valuable bringing this  national summit to Detroit in the near future, especially given the recent progress on the Underground Railroad bicycle routes coming to Detroit.

We’ll make that recommendation to our local Major Taylor Club, the Metro Detroit Cycling Club.

We’re not sure how much Major Taylor raced in Detroit. However, one of his biggest nemesis was Detroit Athletic Club racer and national champion Tom Cooper. And off the track, Cooper was a racist who tried banning Taylor from racing.

Cooper did race against Taylor for the 1901 American Championship held in front of 10,000 New York fans at Madison Square Gardens. Taylor wrote in his autobiography, “If ever a race was run for blood this one was.”

Cooper lost in a remarkably huge manner and refused to shake Taylor’s hand at the end.

Perhaps this result encouraged Cooper to retire from bicycle racing and jump into auto racing (eventually with Henry Ford.)

National Bike Summit: a Detroit perspective

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The 10th National Bike Summit in Washington DC was last week. This three day event was a great opportunity to learn the latest on bike advocacy issues, lobby Congress, and network with peers.

I was attending this wearing a two main MTGA hats: Detroit Greenways Coordinator and Michigan Airline Trail Ambassador.

My highlight was Thursday morning. We had a group breakfast for last minute legislative updates and some cheerleading prior to our Congressional office visits. I was waiting behind this older gentleman for coffee. Being a bit impatient, I asked if I could cut in front. He poured my coffee and I said “Thanks”. It was then that I realized Congressman James Oberstar — one of the key bike supporters in DC and chair of the House Transportation committee — had just poured my coffee.

It was going to be a great day!

(more…)