While the problem of racism in America was addressed in the 1960s by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and others, the problem still exists today. Awareness, at least, had been raised, and while things have improved for African-Americans and other racial groups in the United States, without question there is still a lot of work left to do.
Today I’m sharing an article that first appeared on The Outside website about Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek, CA. who were (for a short while) offering African-American cyclists a discount when they bought bikes. Unfortunately, only one person was able to take advantage of this offer.
According to Grant Petersen, proprietor of the company, this gesture was his way to correct the racism that had existed in the cycling industry since 1878. Petersen points out that Rivendell, which began in 1994, also practiced racist policies but without truly being aware it was doing so. Historically, black bicyclists have been excluded from the cycling industry.
If black people wanted to work as bike messengers or become serious athletes, they were scorned. And many times the cost of a bicycle may have been seen as being beyond what they could afford. Although Major Taylor (Marshall Walter Taylor) helped to change that perception somewhat when he became one of the first African-American bicyclists to race professionally.
Unfortunately, due to negative responses (mostly from the internet) and interference from outside legal involvement, Rivendell was forced to discontinue the program. The good news is Rivendell has changed its business model and functions on donations, which go to various charities and other good causes. As Petersen mentions, bicycles are for everyone.
Are you a black cyclist? Did you have a positive or negative experience when bought your bike? Do you feel accepted by the cycling community? Please like, comment, and share. Feel free to open a friendly discussion with me or others on the blog.