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Beyond Chicagoland

Equiticity Takes Its Mobility Message From Russia to Peru

2:02 AM CST on February 21, 2018

Equiticity’s Oboi Reed in a Moscow metro station.

Recently the Chicago-based mobility justice organization Equiticity, launched in November by Slow Roll Chicago cofounder Oboi Reed, announced that Reed will be traveling around the country and the world this year on a packed speaking tour dubbed the Equiticity Power Trip.

The itinerary includes stops in U.S. cities from Boston to New Orleans to Eugene, Oregon, as well as trips to Moscow, Russia, for the Winter Cycling Congress 2018 and Lima, Peru, for the 7th World Bicycle Forum. In each city Reed will be discussing his group’s mission to introduce equity to all levels of transportation policy. He'll also be learning about local efforts to promote racial equity and increase mobility for underserved populations. Reed's travel is being sponsored by donations from individuals and companies, including Toole Design Group and Nelson/Nygaard. See the full schedule for the tour at the end of this post.

Earlier this month Reed traveled across the globe to the Moscow event. “It was quite the experience and I’m glad I went,” Reed said. He added that most of the attendees were from Europe, especially eastern Europe, and he was the only Black person at the conference. “[Equiticity’s] perspective of using bikes as a tool for social justice is likely very new to that audience. It’s possible that both my content and style of delivery caught them a little off guard and they may need some time to digest it.” However, he also got positive feedback from attendees who said they found his presentation to be very powerful.

Reed’s speech before the congress was set to a soundtrack of hip-hop and electronic dance music, starting with the song “When a Fire Starts to Burn” by the English duo Disclosure. “We burn down what harms us and we build up what benefits us,” Reed said, speaking in a stentorian voice. “Power and equity are greater than racism, bias, paternalism and inequities, and all of the challenges we face.”

Reed discussed the formation of Slow Roll Chicago as an organization that uses biking as a tool to reduce violence, promote health, create jobs, and make Black and Brown neighborhoods more livable. He noted the difference between equality, in which everyone is given the same thing, and equity, where everyone is given what they need, arguing that communities where there is little cycling have the greatest need for the benefits of biking, and therefore should get the most bike resources.

Reed added that holding regular community rides is a ritual that helps promote social cohesion and trust between neighbors, making people feel more comfortable experiencing their community. “When more people ride bikes, it helps to suffocate violence.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 5.35.54 PM
The Moscow bike parade. Photo: Oboi Reed
The Moscow bike parade. Photo: Oboi Reed

At the end of his speech, Reed gave a shout-out to various advocates present, and then called on the whole audience to stand up. “We ride bikes to make our world a better place,” he said. “Let’s ride.”

The highlight of the Moscow event was a winter bike parade. “It was awesome,” Reed said. “It was cold and snowy, but there were three-to-five-thousand people, of all ages, riding all types of bikes, with all kinds of music. I saw young people on BMX bikes, a club with low-rider bikes, and ladies on beautifully painted bikes with outfits that matched their bikes.”

Participants in the bike parade. Photo: Oboi Reed
Participants in the bike parade. Photo: Oboi Reed
Participants in the bike parade. Photo: Oboi Reed

Reed is leaving this week for Lima. “I believe there’s a lot we can learn from Latin American countries,” he said. “I’m more interested in the Latin-American approach to promoting cycling, which focuses on recreation through strategies like the Ciclovia [car-free event] than the European approach, which is more about biking for transportation. I’m not going to go to Englewood and say ‘You should ride your bike to work today,’ although I’d love to help them if they want to do that.”

Here’s the full schedule for the 2018 Equiticity Power Trip speaking tour (so far.)

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