PUBLIC is proud to support Black Girls Do Bike and their efforts to promote healthier lifestyles. We interview founder Monica Garrison below. Also learn more about the upcoming June 10-12 Black Girls Do Bike’s first National Event in Atlanta.
PUBLIC Interview With Monica Garrison, founder of Black Girls Do Bike
What was the inspiration behind launching Black Girls Do Bike? Tell us about coming up with the name.
The inspiration came after re-discovering how much I enjoyed the simple act of riding my bike in the spring and summer of 2013. I was reaping the physical and mental benefits and my children were joining me and learning to survive without their electronic devices. In my travels I quickly realized that there were very few women who looked like me out riding.
BlackGirlsDoBike.com was an attempt to seek out like minded women who had a passion for cycling but also to inspire those bike-curious lady who were just an obstacle away from cycling regularly. I chose to state it in the affirmative, “Black girls do bike!” as if to say that each time a women of color takes a ride she is reaffirming this truth to herself and to others.
Tell us more how Black Girls Do Bike is currently structured across the country and how volunteer leaders communicate and support each other?
Each of our chapters is led by a lady volunteer who we affectionately call a Shero. Each Shero at some point reached out to me with a desire to encourage more women in their community to ride bicycles. They lead rides, moderate their city’s individual Facebook group pages, network with local bike shops and bike/ped organizations and seek to be an overall voice of positivity and encouragement.
Internally all of our Sheroes are part of a secret Facebook group that we use to support one another in this endeavor. We offer praise, advice, frustrations and suggestions for success. We also have a Shero only password protected website with all the need to know stuff.
What has surprised you about the being recognized and involved as a voice in the national bicycle advocacy movement?
The funny thing is that 4 years ago I didn’t even own a bike and had never participated in an organized bike ride of any sort. What I had was a desire to ride and that has set me on a truly life changing journey. It has been such a whirlwind for the past couple of years to be at the helm of such an amazing organization.
Now I find myself mentioned as a voice in the national bike advocacy movement. I am much more comfortable being considered a voice in the national women’s advocacy movement. Either way we are busy in the work of empowering women with the help of bicycles.
Tell us about your upcoming June 10-12 National Meetup “We Ride Together” in Atlanta? What do you hope to accomplish?
Our main goal is to make a mark on the Atlanta Tour De Cure by having a large presence and raising a lot of money for a great cause. Diabetes affects African American families and specifically AA women at disproportionately high rates so for many of us this is personal.
We chose Atlanta as the spot for our first national meetup as our chapter there is our largest with more than 1200 supporters. The weekend will consist of three days of bike related events. REI CoOp has pitched in to help with the needs of our ladies who are traveling in from out of town and will need their bikes assembled.
Civil Bikes has offered our members discounted rates on bike related historic tours around the city. The weekend will end with a celebration in the form of a relaxed recovery ride along the Atlanta Beltline. We will end up at Piedmont Park with a luncheon and festivities to be held at the beautiful Magnolia Hall. We have more than 15 sponsors so our giveaways at this event will be epic.
Some of the main reasons people cite that they don’t bike is that they perceive it as an unsafe or inaccessible activity — dangerous public streets, not enough protected bicycle infrastructure, access to trails and bike paths is far and too infrequent. Are there other obstacles – perceived or real – that you think are specific to encourage more women of color to get on a bike?
I believe there are many points of overlap in terms of why people shy away from riding bikes. Many women of color are overweight or obese and those with negative body image issues are less likely to try a new form of exercise with people they don’t know or trust. Our offer to include riders of all levels in our groups rides, which are “no women left behind”, can help those who might not want to tackle new and unfamiliar activity on their own. A friendly Shero who is willing to accompany a new rider to the local bike shop and help her navigate decisions of what type of bike and accessories to purchase can be invaluable. Surprising many women did not learn to ride in childhood so they are even more apprehensive to start as an adult.
What’s next for Black Girls Do Bike after the National Meetup? What other initiatives, events, and partnerships are you looking forward to?
We are also working on a process to have all of our leadership formerly become certified ride leaders by developing our own course or taking advantage of an education program already in place. We have been contacted by some big names in the cycling community who want to help us further the reach and mission of BGDB. So we plan to pursue those leads and form some strategic partnerships.
I like the idea of having BGDB ladies from all over the country converge on different cycling events to increase our visibility. Events like NYC’s 5 Boro Bike Tour, Alabama’s Bo Bikes Bama, Maryland’s Seagull Century the Tour de Cure series and many more. If our national meet up this June does what it seeks to accomplish, we may make this a biennial event.