There is a unique club in D.C. called Black Women Bike (BWB), whose aim to get Black women and girls of all ages to take up biking for fun, health, wellness and transportation. BWB wants to build community and interest in biking among Black women through education, advocacy and recreation.
BWB was actually created in May 2011 by Veronica O. Davis, Najeema Washington and Nse Ufot during a Twitter conversation. “In creating the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #BlackWomenBike, they knew the sentiment would resonate with other Black women cyclists,” explains Nichole Noel, member of the BWBDC leadership committee. “However, people in the cycling community have been surprised at the rapid growth of BWB.”
In fact, in just two years, the organization has grown from its three founders to a community of more than 1,100 women, thanks to support from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), which is the group’s fiscal sponsor, local media coverage, and word of mouth.
The organization doesn’t just bike around D.C.; it holds various events. The leadership committee, which includes the three founders as well as Allyson Criner Brown, Lesly Jones, Anica Allen, and Noel, “organizes rides, seminars, and social activities to help remove the cultural and economic barriers to cycling,” says Noel. The leadership committee also encourages BWB members to connect using social media to look for riding partners, host impromptu rides, participate in organized cycling events, and to share information.
The organization is free, but it does encourage members to join WABA, the regional bicycling advocacy group, and to participate in activities and advocacy efforts to improve cycling throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Although BWB has taken off, it has yet to expand to other cities. “The organization is focused on developing a strong model in the D.C. area before opening chapters in other cities. However, BWB does encourage riders in other cities to join the regional or local bicycling advocacy organization to increase the profile of Black women riders in the bicycling community,” explains Noel. “The leadership committee agrees that greatest joy in running this group is seeing women of all ages get back on bicycles, even those who have not ridden in over 40 years! It’s also great to see women who use bicycling primarily for exercise and recreation ride as a form of transportation.”
BWB has attracted a wide array of women—who have become biking advocates. “In addition to rides and seminars, this year BWB has witnessed two of its members, Allyson Criner Brown and Marya McQuirter, be appointed and sworn in as members of the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council. Members Allyson Criner Brown, Lesly Jones, Anica Allen and Vanessa Garrison have been certified as instructors by the League of American Bicyclists.”
Among other developments, BWB also launched a cycling kit (a jersey and matching shorts) in the group’s signature orange and purple colors. And BWB has more plans for the future. “Going forward, BWB would like to see more of its members take active and prominent roles in shaping the D.C. area’s bicycling agenda and policies,” says Noel. “The leadership committee is always looking to welcome women who want to take a role in the group’s leadership. Most important, BWB wants to see a future where Black women and girls ride bikes for fun, health, wellness and transportation.”