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Streets Calling, a Black-led bike group, hopes to get even bigger in 2023

Streets Calling’s 2022 Juneteenth Ride. Photo: Streets Calling

Streets Calling is an African-American-led cycling club "focused on social activism, entrepreneurship, and... promoting Black culture," founded by Ron King and Daphnay Sagaille. Their rides are especially welcoming for people who have just started biking, or exercising in general, with a goal of improving the health of people of color and supporting POC-owned businesses. The latter became particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many businesses struggled with falling sales.

Streets Calling founders Ron King and Daphne Sagaille.
Streets Calling founders Ron King and Daphne Sagaille.
Streets Calling founders Ron King and Daphne Sagaille.

Sagaille told Streetsblog Streets Calling keeps in mind how intimidating cycling events can be for first-time riders. Many other bike clubs are geared towards experienced cyclists, with rides that travel at a fast pace. At Streets Calling, they separate the participants into groups based on speed, with the fastest riders in the front and the beginners in the back. Riders marshals make sure nobody gets left behind, and the group reassembles at rest stops. "But what we do strive is to make sure that... if you start as a beginner, by the end of the season, you do push into the advanced group."

In addition to Chicago, Streets Calling has chapters in other U.S. cities like Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and they've collaborated with cycling groups in Toronto. And people from as far away as Texas and Florida have flown to Chicago for Streets Calling's Juneteenth ride, the group's biggest event.

According to Sagaille, Streets Calling rides reflect the cultures of the participants. "You'll find a lot of people are playing their version of the music they would like to see through the streets," she said. "We also have different themes. Sometimes we'll do a blackout ride [wearing black clothing], we'll do an all-white [clothes] ride for Labor Day. Sometimes we'll [celebrate] Mexican independence day. Rep your flag day. We do have different themes. It's more about culture. It's more about expressing yourself through the bike rides, networking, and things of that sort. So it's a bit more [laid back] than a regular cycling group."

Streets Calling's 2022 Juneteenth Ride. Photo: Streets Calling
Streets Calling's 2022 Juneteenth Ride. Photo: Streets Calling
Streets Calling's 2022 Juneteenth Ride. Photo: Streets Calling

The blackout ride honored beloved actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in 2020. Besides starring as Black Panther, Boseman played several important Black historical figures, including Jackie Robinson,  Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown.

"Whatever's going on in the city, whatever's going on in the world, for any reason, we'll try to represent it as much as we can in the Chicago world to show that we do support it," Sagaille said. For breast cancer awareness month, Streets Calling held a ride with pink clothing. "We just want to make sure that we're showing our support any way that we can."

Sagaille said Streets Calling's biggest accomplishment of 2022 was having people outside the United States reach out to them. A goal for this year is to draw even more people to the rides, which already attract hundreds of participants.

While  Streets Calling rides are usually no longer than 15 miles, this year they plan to build up to holding a 100-mile event, aka a century, for people who are interested in taking on the challenge. "We're going to be working towards doing that at the end of the season. We're going to start slow, and make sure people are able to actually keep up, and then at the end of the season offer that option."

Clearly Streets Calling is doing great work encouraging new people to ride bikes who might never have thought of themselves as "cyclists" before.

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