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Advocate Spotlight: Allyson McCalla

In celebration of Black History Month, we’re passing the microphone to amplify the stories of Black cycling advocates, leaders, and changemakers who are strengthening the bike movement.

One advocate we’re thrilled to spotlight is the Newport, Rhode Island-based Allyson McCalla. Allyson does it all – she’s a certified League Cycling Instructor, Shero of a local Black Girls Do Bike chapter, and Director of Operations at Bike Newport.

We connected with Allyson to hear more about her experience, ambitions, and vision for the bike movement.

Photo credit to Jessica Pohl

We always love to hear from people about their ‘bike story’, what got them so deep into bicycling that they ended up here with us. How did your journey begin?

My bicycling journey began as a child. I am the youngest of four siblings and I grew up in a single-parent home. Although my mother had a car, she was new to driving at the age of 34, wasn’t a confident driver, and didn’t enjoy it at all. She was too busy working and taking care of home, so my bike was basically my only mode of reliable transportation if I wanted to go anywhere.

Fast forward into adulthood — biking was not something that stayed with me. But once I began working for Bike Newport, my biking journey began all over again, and I LOVE IT!

You do so much for the bike movement, especially in your hometown of Newport. Tell us a little about your community and your favorite local rides!

My hometown of Newport, RI is known as the “City by the Sea.” We have only 7.7 square miles of land – so as you can read, Newport is a very bikeable town where biking and walking are by far the easiest ways to get around. For many years, Newport has been known as a New England summer resort that is famous for African heritage history that dates back to the 17th century, historic mansions, sailing history, and one day – bicycle advocacy! I LOVE biking around Newport, especially the famous Ocean Drive (we like to call it the “Ocean Loop”), where you’re right on the coastline and can smell the sea. One of my favorite local bike rides is Bike Newport’s 10-Spot Ride! We’re invited to ten unique homes around Newport, and upon arrival, we’re greeted by live bands, local Newport restaurant foods, and BEAUTIFUL scenery.

I also really enjoy our Full Moon Rides! We usually have between 50 and 80 riders from around Newport, and surrounding cities and states – it’s a great way to get a glance of a full moon – especially when it reflects from the calm ocean at night. But my most FAVORITE rides are with my black women and girls who do bike! There’s nothing like riding with a group of women whom you feel an instant connection with who really enjoy one another’s company. Our rides are ALWAYS fun: laughing and talking, getting to know each other and what inspired us all to ride. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!

What would you tell someone who wants to get involved in bike advocacy, but isn’t sure where to start?

Unfortunately, safety is a major concern for many bicyclists and pedestrians. A lot of our work at Bike Newport consists of advocating for additional safety measures and road challenges citywide, educating individuals of all ages and backgrounds on Smart Cycling, and helping more people get out of the car and into the saddle.

I highly encourage individuals to speak with their city leaders, join a local Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC), or come to Bike Newport! Educate yourself on the issues within your community and figure out how you can be a part of the changes you would like to see happen. Also, sometimes it’s not enough to just attend those meetings, you must use your voice, or find a way to be heard, find a way to make “good trouble.”

What has been your greatest reward in your bike advocacy journey so far?​​ What keeps you going?

I don’t know if I can pick just one: Providing bicycles to individuals in need of a mode of transportation so they can get to work, school, doctor appointments, grocery stores, etc.; advocating for and witnessing Newport’s first shared-use bike path being built, seeing RI’s first ever traffic garden in the heart of my hometown – Newport’s north end, introducing bicycle education into Newport’s public schools, seeing bike lanes on our residential streets, getting Black Girls Do Bike up and running for Rhode Islanders – there are so many. All of these moments are what keep me going – it’s rewarding!

What’s your favorite thing about being on a bike?

It really brings me back to being a kid again. The freedom I have, the places I go that I never thought of and where cars won’t fit, smelling the aromas of the sea and flowers, fresh air, therapy, health and wellness – I can go on and on. It’s freeing, it’s free, and it’s definitely for me!

We’re excited to see you’ll be joining us at the National Bike Summit next month! What are you looking forward to the most this year?

I always look forward to seeing my fellow Black Girls Do Bike sheros! And, I’m looking forward to learning new ways of helping to inspire more individuals to become advocates in our line of work, speaking with our state senators and representatives, seeing all the fun people who I’ve met over the years, and hopefully catching the cherry blossoms in full bloom! So… It’s safe to say, I’m looking forward to the entire summit!

About the Summit

Join hundreds of bike advocates like Allyson for the largest grassroots bicycle advocacy conference in America from March 19-21, 2024, at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. Yes, you read that right – this year, we’re starting mid-day on Tuesday, March 19th, and concluding on Thursday, March 21.

Learn more about the Summit »

How to Register

While registering, please read the full event description to learn more about the difference between in-person and online-only tickets, as well as information on available scholarships. 

P.S. In-person attendees can add on the limited-edition League of American Bicyclists t-shirt celebrating the 2024 National Bike Summit! You will receive your shirt during event check-in on Tuesday, March 19. 

Take advantage of League Member pricing! 

League Member pricing is the best rate available for paid attendees. To receive this member rate, you must have an Individual or Family Membership to the League of American Bicyclists.

Learn more about League membership and become a member today to receive the discounted Summit registration rate! (You will save money!)