Equity and Our History
Our past informs our present.
The League was founded as the League of American Wheelmen in 1880. Bicyclists, known then as “wheelmen,” were challenged by rutted roads of gravel and dirt and faced antagonism from horsemen, wagon drivers, and pedestrians.
In an effort to improve riding conditions so they might better enjoy their newly discovered sport, more than 100,000 cyclists from across the United States joined the League to advocate for paved roads. The success of the League in its first advocacy efforts ultimately led to our national highway system.
As a national organization, it is our responsibility to represent and serve all people who bicycle in the United States.
The League and the bicycling movement have contributed to the divisions in our communities, have overtly excluded people of color in the past, haven’t done enough to welcome people of color to participate, and haven’t taken action to address the structural racism in the built environment, bicycling-related policies, and bicycling programming.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Equity, diversity, and inclusion are fundamental to the League and the bicycling movement’s success. This means more than simply being open to new ideas, people, and groups. This means active engagement, listening, learning, and deep collaboration with others towards our shared goals. To be effective in this, we must thoughtfully engage and collaborate with people and organizations who are not adequately represented within our organization and the larger bicycling movement.
In order to meet the promise of a nation where bicycling is safe, comfortable, and open to all we must address systemic disparities, build a more diverse movement that truly represents our communities, and speak with one voice for a Bicycle Friendly America for Everyone.
Safe streets for everyone is at the heart of the League of American Bicyclists’ mission. Safe streets means more than slow streets, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It means that everyone is free to move on our streets, in our neighborhoods, and throughout our cities without fear of violence, racial profiling, or police brutality.
We must continually reflect on the inequities in our society and what we can do as an organization to address these in our work to make bicycling safe, comfortable, and accessible to all.
Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Each of them, and the too many Black Americans killed before, deserved the freedom to live. Because Black lives matter. Their names are among the countless that have been victims of racism and exclusion that has plagued our country’s history since its founding. The League played our part, too, most notably by banning Black people from our membership in the 1890s and not owning up to this fully until the 1990s. We also can’t ignore the less-overt exclusion that has been fostered throughout the 20th century and to today in bicycling events and programming.
We, as a movement, must do more than make statements and simply say the doors have been opened, people of color are welcome, and that policies are changing. There is more work to do in service of true equity, diversity, and inclusion. It means going out and welcoming people in and making a place at the table. It means being quiet and letting other people talk, and then moving forward together fully acknowledging there will be bumps. The first step is acknowledgment. We have been part of the problem. If we truly believe in leading the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for Everyone we need to be representative of America’s diversity. If we are going to truly improve lives, communities, our world, we must be riding together.
This is why the League condemns racism, aims to practice anti-racism, and stands with the communities of color demanding an end to racial inequities on our streets and in our culture. We are asking ourselves the questions posed by Tamika Butler, starting with, “Do I understand that not being racist isn’t the same as being anti-racist?”
Based on our surveys, League members and supporters are overwhelmingly white and male. To improve in our understanding and effectiveness, we must increase representation and the diversity of perspectives in our organization and movement. The League is thankful for the women and BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) advocates who have pushed us to do better. We have much more work to do to welcome, to listen, learn and act to make our organization better and more effective through partnership and action. We must do this work so that as an organization, we can participate authentically in building a future where streets truly are safe for everyone.
Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion enables the League to fulfill our mission and achieve our vision. In order to meet the promise of a nation where bicycling is safe, comfortable, and open to all we must address systemic disparities, build a more diverse movement that truly represents our communities, and speak with one voice for a Bicycle Friendly America for Everyone.