black history bike ride
Photo courtesy: Black History Bike Ride, July 2020

Ride, Learn, Explore: Join the ‘Black History Bike Ride’ in Austin

There’s still time to be one of the 500 riders to help the second-annual Black History Bike Ride meet its fundraising goal of $5,000. But hurry! There’s only one week left. Read on for how you can go along for the ride — and learn some Austin, Texas, Black history in the process.

Austin resident Talib Abdullahi knows that a bike is the perfect vehicle for getting a deeper connection and understanding of a place. When he first got the idea for a bike ride that would visit local Black history locations in Austin, he didn’t expect much.

But after 400 riders showed up for the first ride, he realized he was onto something. So he’s doing it again.

In creating the Black History Bike Ride, Abdullahi researched and created an online guide with 12 stops for riders to learn more about Black history in Austin.

Stops include places like the Sweet Home Baptist Church, which was founded by freed slaves as a place to gather, a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., and the Oakwood Cemetery, Austin’s oldest cemetery, where many people of color were buried in the 1800s.

Black History Bike Ride July 2020
Photo courtesy: Black History Bike Ride July 2020

“Local history isn’t really discussed in elementary or middle schools. I created the ride to give people the tools to learn the history themselves and to understand their own city a little better,” said Abdullahi. “My hope is to inspire more people to get out in their own communities and learn about the Black, Latino, and Indigenous stories that exist all around them.”

And now, PeopleForBikes — “the largest and most vocal bicycle advocacy group,” according to Tobie DePauw, director of affiliate accounts — is helping Abdullahi spread the inspiration. After hearing about the first Black History Bike Ride in summer 2020 from a mutual friend, DePauw reached out to Abdullahi to continue the momentum.

DePauw was excited about the Black History Bike Ride because he had worked on a similar project in 2020 as part of Ride Spot, an app created by PeopleForBikes to bring awareness to safe, local bike routes (which the organization found was the largest barrier to cycling access).

Ride Spot allows you to discover and easily navigate rides in your area and also participate in challenges, like completing a specific route to receive an incentive from a local bike shop.

In 2020, DePauw engaged the CRR1919 Commemoration Project and The Newberry Library, who researched and mapped out the 1919 Chicago Race Riot Route, to host the route on Ride Spot to bring awareness to the “most violent” event of its kind in Illinois history. PeopleForBikes partnered with local bike companies SRAM and ABUS, who donated $7,500 to local bike advocacy group Blackstone Bicycle Works after 300 riders completed the challenge.

DePauw worked with Abdullahi to design a similar structure for the Black History Bike Ride. They initially planned to launch in February, but they postponed it to March due to major storms in Texas. Throughout March 2021, if 500 people complete Abdullahi’s route on Ride Spot, SRAM will make a generous donation of $5,000 to Black History Bike Ride.

Right now, due to the false start, they are optimistically around halfway to their goal of 500 riders. But there’s still time! If you live in Austin, Texas, this is your chance to learn more about the history of your city while supporting a good cause. If you don’t live in the area but might be interested in starting a similar project, reach out to DePauw, whose job it is to help design and launch similar projects.

Abdullahi is also working on expanding the Black History Bike Ride project to other cities. “Talib did the research for himself in Austin and really put together an incredible presentation of history, and, in the process, he learned how this kind of route and lesser-known history is prevalent in other cities across the country,” said DePauw.

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Ilana Newman

Ilana is a writer, photographer, and life long learner. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she spends her free time climbing, running, and skiing in the mountains. She is passionate about intersectional social justice work in the outdoors and creating access for all.