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“Two Wheels, One City” Pledge Is an Invitation to Work for Bike Equity

A Slow Roll Chicago ride in Pullman. Photo: Slow Roll Chicago

“We work to create a city of Chicago where no matter who you are or where you live, you are able to enjoy all the benefits biking can offer,” states the Two Wheels, One City Call to Action. This online pledge to build a more diverse local bike culture was released last week by Slow Roll Chicago, the Active Transportation Alliance, the Chicago Cycling Club, and endorsed by over a dozen community organizations. These groups are also hosting two bike rides with a focus on diversity as part of Chicago Bike Week: tonight’s Two Wheels, One City Ride and Friday’s Rolling Spokes Ride.

A post about the pledge on Slow Roll’s website discusses the need for a more inclusive Chicago bike community:

As we celebrate the wonderful progress Chicago has made through advances like protected bike lanes and the Divvy bike share system, we must also continue to call attention to the work that remains to be done to create better biking and encourage healthy transportation.

For too many, biking is still not seen as a viable option.  Many barriers to biking exist for many different reasons. To change that, we must fully incorporate the voices and leadership of historically marginalized and underrepresented groups into the work of building a bike friendly city, including women, people of color, and individuals from low- to moderate-income communities.

“The Call to Action is a very small ask,” SLC cofounder Oboi Reed (a Streetsblog Chicago board member) told me. “We just want people to acknowledge that all of us can do better to create a diverse and equitable bike culture.” In December, Reed and other African-American bike advocates released an open letter to local transportation leaders calling for a fairer distribution of bike resources. This year, Slow Roll has been leading weekly group rides, with a focus on getting more South and West Side residents on bikes.

CCC president Anne Alt (also on the Streetsblog board) said that members of the club have previously had conversations about the need for more diversity in the Chicago bike scene. “After discussions with advocates of color like Oboi, we decided that we want to help encourage more people to ride bikes for whatever reason, whether it’s for recreation or transportation.”

Active Trans campaign director Jim Merrell said the pledge and the two bike rides are an easy way to get more people involved in working for equity, as well as the broader movement for improving Chicago cycling. Anyone who takes the pledge will get periodic updates from Slow Roll and Active Trans about equity efforts, plus ATA's Chicago Bike Network Vision Survey, and other local cycling projects and issues.

Slow Roll is spreading the word about the survey, which asks residents where they think bike improvements should be prioritized, to help Active Trans get a broad demographic of Chicagoans to participate. “We’re going to work closely with them to review the results and use it to connect with the city and the state about where the opportunities are and where the challenges are in terms of bike transportation,” Reed said.

This evening’s ride, The Two Wheels, One City Ride: Celebrating Chicago’s Diversity on Bicycles, meets at 5:30 at Daley Plaza, 50 West Washington, departing at 6 for a spin through the South Loop, Pilsen, and the West Loop, ending back at the Picasso. Reed will give a short speech about the equity goals before the ride starts.

Friday’s ride, The Rolling Spokes Ride: Creating Community by Connecting Communities, departs at different times on Friday morning from five different locations, arriving downtown in time for the annual Bike to Work Rally in Daley Plaza. Starting points include Chicago State University, the South Shore Cultural Center, the Blackstone Bicycle Works, West Town Bikes, and The Recyclery – check the schedule for starting times.

Whether or not you can make the rides, consider signing the Two Wheels, One City pledge to show your support. Almost 100 Chicagoans have already done so, Reed said.

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