Bicycles and bicycling—and Bicycling—are supposed to be about freedom, joy, the remarkable simplicity and clarity, too little found elsewhere, that we attain when achievement equals the effort we put in, and a curious and mysterious and powerful kind of connected independence that flows between us when we choose to give or accept a draft, when we drop an arm to point out a pothole for those behind us, when we say each in our turn “car back” to pass that message of care forward from the last rider in a pack to the first, when we wave or nod to a cyclist rolling past in the opposite direction, when we get some grease on our hands or give a spare tube to help out a stranded cyclist we’ve never met before, when we help someone at work get started commuting, when unplanned we end up sharing the most intimate stories of our lives on a long ride, when we comfort someone who has crashed.
My life’s work—my first published piece about bikes appeared in 1983 in a student newspaper—has been dedicated to helping others discover and explore these ideals. Yet, as our national trauma and pain brought our society to a reckoning with systemic racism and racial injustice in a way that feels like a chance for epochal change, it became clear to me how in a vital way I’ve failed to fully uphold those ideals, and how tragically cycling as a culture, sport, and industry has failed Black America.
Especially in the past seven years or so Bicycling has become known for our efforts to represent and celebrate the diversity of the cycling community, but it was nowhere near enough, and we are going harder, farther, and faster toward the kinds of meaningful and long-lasting changes that create a cycling world that truly welcomes and encourages and represents and rewards Black cyclists. Along with our parent company, Hearst, and our partner in sweat in the Hearst Enthusiast Group, Runner’s World, here is what we are doing immediately:
• We have undertaken an editorial audit of our contributors, story topics, cyclists featured in stories, imagery, and expert sources. We commit to increasing representation of BIPOC and LGBTQ cyclists. Along with the rest of Hearst magazines, we will make our coverage metrics public on a regular basis, and be accountable for increasing representation.
• We commit to assembling a staff that better reflects the diverse, inclusive, and equitable community we serve. We also will ensure that our editorial culture is one in which underrepresented people can see themselves having a future, and one in which they know that we support their growth.
• We have evaluated our e-commerce efforts and will continue to do so to ensure that, when possible, minority-owned businesses are among our affiliate partners.
• We have provided and will continue to provide training for all staff in allyship, understanding racial trauma, and bias in content creation.
• We will attend and extend our expertise and our platform to only those cycling panels, seminars, and boards with diverse programming, leaders, and participants.
• We have signed the Cycling Industry Pledge, an action-oriented diversity initiative organized by WTF Bikexplorers, joining this important effort with cycling industry partners such as Machines for Freedom, Paul Component Engineering, The Radavist, Specialized, Squid Bikes, State Bicycle Company, USA Cycling, Velo-Orange, and (as I write this) about 170 others.
• Each week we will offer a takeover of one of our social channels to a diverse voice from the cycling community.
• We will donate $250,000 of the Enthusiast Group’s print and digital advertising space to organizations dedicated to racial equality.
I apologize to the Black cycling community for not doing more sooner. And I guarantee that these commitments are just a start.
To the white cyclists who choose to go on this ride with the rest of us, I have some advice—not on being an ally, or how to inform yourself, or how to amplify voices unlike your own, or any of the other things you should seek not from someone like you but from the many resources produced by groups such as Black Lives Matter and other leaders in anti-racism, racial justice, and inclusivity.
What I want you to know—from experience—is that as you work to dismantle racism and prejudice (including your own), no matter how hard you try, you are going to fail in ways that will embarrass, shame, confuse, and discourage you, and you need to keep going anyway. Learn, apologize, make what amends you can, and keep pushing toward progress.
My most recent failure took place in our story celebrating Leo Rodgers, who as I said on the cover of 2020 Issue 4, is “the kind of cyclist we all need right now.” The story’s author unintentionally used a phrase with racist origins to describe Leo’s riding style, and the phrase made it through our editing process into that print issue. As soon as I was alerted to this, I amended the story digitally, and I appended a note about the change with an apology. I told Leo I was sorry, and I apologize to him again here in public for marring a celebration of his amazing cycling life. I also apologize specifically for this to all Black cyclists, and to anyone who, especially in this time of such shared trauma, came to Bicycling and cycling as a source of refuge and support.
Finally, to the cyclists who don’t want to set off on this journey with us, know this: When you catch up, I’ll welcome you into the pack.
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