Bicycle advocacy that’s inclusive of people from different racial and cultural backgrounds — commonly referred to under the umbrella term of equity — is something every bike group seems to be talking about these days.
But the Portland-based nonprofit Community Cycling Center has been doing this work long before it was common. And now they’ve been recognized with a “Catalyst Award” from the Alliance of Biking and Walking. The award was presented to the CCC at the recent National Bike Summit in Washington D.C.
Here’s more from the Alliance:
“From catalyzing (sometimes difficult) conversations on the national stage to investigating its own operations through an equity lens, the Center has charted new territory in the bike-walk movement and inspired others to join them in the pressing need to reevaluate how we engage with community and define our leadership. For instance, its work with Andando en Bicicletas en Cully (“Riding Bikes in Cully”) — a Spanish-speaking group in a low-income housing development — has shown how advocacy organizations can work with and be led by community to build a movement that recognizes the expertise and value of all residents.”
It was back in 2009 when the CCC gained national attention for directly calling out the lack of racial diversity in the bike movement. Their groundbreaking Understanding Barriers to Bicycling report named the problem by asking a simple question: “Is our bike scene too white?” “The people riding and making decisions about bicycles is a white, middle class group,” the group’s former executive director Alison Graves said at the time.
The CCC didn’t just talk about it, they went into new communities. They challenged themselves — and by extension all of us who work on these issues — to address the elephant in the room.
“What we’ve learned is that it’s about more than just bikes,” wrote CCC Communications and Marketing Manager Melinda Musser in a blog post last week. “It’s about listening and engaging with people in our community whose voices are typically underrepresented at the tables where policies and decisions are made about our city of Portland. Advocacy is about being a bridge and supporting people as they amplify their own voices.”
CCC employee Lale Santelices uses her bilingual skills on a daily basis in her work. She runs the group’s programs in the New Columbia neighborhood of north Portland and in Cully in northeast. She encourages bike advocates to not always think bike-first. “If getting more people on bikes is your ultimate agenda, then it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to see lasting change. It’s not about the bike, it’s about community building.”
For the CCC “community building” isn’t just a glittering generality. They back it up with real connections and outcomes.
Their Bike Repair Hub in New Columbia is going strong and will be open two days a week this summer thanks to new staffer Laquida Landford. The Hub offers not only bike repair but it’s a meeting place where the power of cycling can take flight. In Cully, the CCC continues to foster growth of Andando en Bicicletas en Cully (ABC), a group that’s advocating for better cycling conditions in their neighborhood.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
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