Biking by Numbers #4: The Invisible Man

My most popular post about the curious lack of women in Milwaukee biking to work has not generated the rush of survey takers I had hoped.  I have 89 surveys completed so far.  So I will leave it open for a while to try to get a few hundred.  Once I get there, I will report on the results.  In the mean time, please spread the word to Milwaukee women and men:

For this 4th post in the Biking by Numbers series, I am going to respond to the frequent comments I get about the perception that people of color are not interested in bicycling.  I get comments with that point of view frequently, both from whites and people of color.

I believe that the truth of the matter is that many people of color ride bikes for fun and utility.  New immigrants ride because they did so in their home country and it remains a cheap and practical means of transportation in the US.  And pretty much any time I am in a central city neighborhood for longer than 5 minutes, I see kids and adults riding bikes. The Census data is not filtered by race for bicycle mode share, so there is not good source of information about it on a local level. 

But I know I don’t have to be in any neighborhood in Milwaukee more than five minutes before I see a few people riding bikes.  Here are some photos I took in five minutes downtown after I got out of work.

Locked out and uwanted? That is certainly what it looks like at Cargill in the Valley.

Five minutes and four cyclists riding downtown.  While I do believe interest in riding bikes crosses over racial divides, I also believe there remains a stigma about biking and poverty.  Our culture sends the message loud and clear that your car is everyone’s status symbol and identity. If you are poor and working to better your economic station in life, getting a car is a measure of your success. 

This is sad and misguided.  Instead we should praise people for riding bikes for all the same reasons we promote it to people who can afford to choose to bicycle instead of drive a car.  But it still seems to many that if you don’t drive you are locked out of economic success.

Dream Bikes during the grand opening

The good news is that this perception is changing.  Shops like the Bicycle Collective, Dream Bikes, and soon Milwaukee Bicycle Works are helping.  And there are more and more organized rides like the new Freedom Rides and others organized by the Major Taylor Cycling Club to help raise the image of cycling in neighborhoods across the City. Recently the North Division High School Valid Bike Shop held an open house and awards party.  It was inspiring and hits all the right points:


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Biking by the Numbers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Biking by Numbers #4: The Invisible Man

  1. Russell says:

    All 4 have fenders on their bikes. Hmmmmmmmmm………

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