Bike Fort Collins first launched You Know Me. I Ride a Bike. back in 2009, where we featured local residents, for whom riding bikes is a big part of their life, in a broader awareness campaign. Beginning in 2021, we are excited to reintroduce this bio-series, where we feature one new Fort Collins resident each month here on our news-blog/website, as well as through The Pedal Post eNewsletter and our social channels, highlighting their love for bikes and for riding them. Please join us and read on, as we hear their stories and learn more about these remarkable folks who live and ride right here in our community.
February 2021: Dr. Ray Black
In honor of Black History Month, Bike Fort Collins sat down (zoom style) with Dr. Ray Black for this month’s edition of You know Me. I Ride a Bike. Dr. Black is an assistant professor in ethnic studies with a focus on African American studies at the Colorado State University and we are extremely grateful for his time during the busy month of February.
photo credit: Jillian Betterly
Born in 1962, Dr. Black enjoyed riding his banana seat bike to visit friends and family in his childhood neighborhood of the Bronx. Although his own school was too far for a daily bike commute, Dr. Black enjoyed using his bike for transportation and recreation on the weekends. As a teenager in the 1970s, Dr. Black rode the newly formed (and now iconic) 5 Boroughs Ride on a bike that he would eventually retire after cracking the frame from so many miles of unforgiving New York City streets.
Dr. Black’s next bike would come to him while living in Madison, Wisconsin. It was here that he became more familiar with the trials and tribulations of winter bike commuting. From the frigid temperatures of the midwest, Dr. Black eventually made his way to the Bay Area where he would transition to cycling for exercise as well as transportation. A former runner, Dr. Black found cycling to be much kinder on his knees and thus began his venture into recreational road riding.
Arriving in Fort Collins in 2013 with his Motobecane, it was the thriving bicycle culture that really pulled Dr. Black into the sport of road cycling. Friend, and local bicycle advocate, Aaron Buckley, introduced Dr. Black to the amazing resource that is the Fort Collins Bicycle Co-op and it was here that Dr. Black purchased his road bike, a TREK 1220. Dr. Black especially enjoys riding the roads just north of the reservoir around Bellvue and experiencing the seasons and bucolic setting these rural roads offer. Dr. Black looks forward to one day reaching the top of Rist Canyon (after a very close summit attempt) and to completing a century ride.
A dedicated bike commuter (in pre-COVID times), Dr. Black made the regular commute from home to campus year round. Of all the places he has lived, Fort Collins has offered the most in the way of infrastructure and opportunity for transportation and recreational cycling.
Again, we are most grateful for Dr. Black’s limited time during Black History Month as he is also a scholar of the subject with his insights and expertise in high demand. Bike Fort Collins is honored to have had the opportunity to include Dr. Black in this month’s edition of You Know Me. I Ride a Bike. and we celebrate our incredible community of folks on bikes. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Dr. Black, and we’ll be sending high-fives when you crest the top of Rist Canyon this summer!
A Word on Racial Equity & Justice:
It is important to note that there are many barriers to entry in cycling for people of color. Acknowledging these as very real issues and creating dialogue around finding solutions is imperative to lasting change at the local and national level. Much like cycling, lasting change in racial equity is a people-powered movement. Keep moving.
In talking with Dr. Black about his experiences as a person of color who also rides, three key areas emerged:
SAFETY: For a person of color, riding solo in remote rural areas of our country is a very vulnerable experience and fear for physical safety is a major consideration when planning a ride. It is for this reason that Dr. Black has put a beacon on his phone and prefers to ride in groups rather than alone. For those of us who do not identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) long solo rides are something we take for granted, not realizing the role racism plays in keeping a large segment of the population from even entering the sport of cycling.
INCLUSIVITY: Entering a new sport can be an intimidating experience for anyone, and is especially daunting for minorities. Supporting and promoting diversity in bike shops, bike clubs, and bicycle advocacy is essential to addressing this barrier to entry. Many BIPOC specific bike clubs have sprouted across the country to address this gap and create a more inviting experience. Bike Ride for Black Lives, Ride for Racial Justice, Major Taylor Bike Club, Streets Calling Bike Club, Black Foxes, and Black Girls Do Bike are just a few examples of effective efforts towards bringing diversity to the sport of cycling.
When asked how Bike Fort Collins can play a role in improving diversity and inclusivity in cycling at the local level, Dr. Black emphasized the continued support and promotion of local groups and clubs such as Bike Ride for Black Lives and Ride for Racial Justice. He also underscored the importance of our Safe Routes to School program and reaching underserved communities and minority groups.
COMMUNICATION: Improving diversity and inclusivity in cycling starts with consistent and effective communication. Fostering relationships with a variety of organizations representing minorities and underserved communities is an important step in getting a variety of people at the table. Once these lines of communication have been established, Dr. Black recommends maintaining consistent outreach in order to ensure engagement and participation. Increasing diversity in bike clubs, organizations and teams means reaching outside the usual circle of communication networks and initiating conversation. Crafting a strategic communication is central to these efforts and should be informed by minority leaders in the community.
Name and age? Dr. Ray Black and 58
What do you do for a living? Assistant professor in the Ethnic Studies department at CSU
How long have you lived in Fort Collins? Since 2013
How long have you been riding? Since childhood
What kind of riding do you do? Road and commuting
Do you commute via bike? If so, how far do you commute? Yes. Daily commute = 6 miles round trip
Why do you ride? Fun, friendship, exercise, commuting, because it is a day that ends in “y”
What kind(s) of bike(s) do you ride? Road bike: Trek 1220, Cannondale CAAD8 (looking at Orbea Orca), Commuter: Raleigh hybrid
What would you like to tell someone who is thinking about starting to ride a bike? Yes. From toddlers on trikes to bikes that cost more than nice cars, there is a ride for everyone
What makes you smile when you’re on your bike? “When you’re just hitting your stride, when you’re cruising and feel one with everything.”
What got you into riding your bike? Was there a specific moment/experience? Lately, better health (back issues) and friends who ride.
Where is your favorite place to ride? The north end of the reservoir around Bellvue (Bingham Hill) and Noosa
What are the biggest improvements you’ve seen for bicycling in Fort Collins? Path from Kathy Fromme to Loveland, Bike path snow plowing, Growing system of bike trails, The protected bike lane on Mulberry
What gets you on your bike on a cold, rainy, crummy day? Not much
How often do you ride your bike (vs. drive)? Pre-pandemic, as much as possible, commuting and with friends. In pandemic, paired safely with pod-minded friends.
Any last comments? Remember to wave, the subtle head nod and fingers raised off bar as we ride by!