Future Bike: Monica Garrison
When Monica Garrison re-discovered bicycling as an adult, the attraction was instant — but something was missing. “I was becoming completely addicted to that full-on feeling of freedom and euphoria, [but,] as I rode around my town, I started to realize how very few African American women I saw riding,” she says.
At first it was a genuine question: “Do black girls bike?” But quickly, for Garrison, it became a call to action. Now her website, BlackGirlsDoBike.com, has become a nationwide network of thousands of women of color connecting through bicycling. With a growing following on new media and insight on how to shift the messaging around who is engaged in bicycling, we’re excited to host Garrison as a speaker at Future Bike on September 11!
As Garrison explains: “Black Girls Do Bike welcomes the bike curious and hopes to enlighten women about the mental and physical benefits of being active and introducing cycling into their lives.” The website and associated social media channels help women of color meet in their cities to share insight, ask questions, organize rides, and engage in their local communities. And more than a dozen U.S. cites now have Black Girls Do Bike chapters.
How important has it been to encourage bike riding with the African American community?
The statistics are alarming. We are witnessing a health crisis. Leading causes of death in the African American community — heart disease, stroke, and diabetes — are mostly preventable diseases. If we encourage ladies to get moving and they, in turn, encourage their mother, daughter, sister or friend to do the same, then we’re all better for it. As women, we sometimes forget that taking care of ourselves makes us better caretakers for those we love. It doesn’t really matter how you move — run, walk or cycle — just keep moving and give yourself a fighting chance.<
What challenges have you faced with BGDB?
In the early months of BGDB I struggled to find content that was relevant and engaging. No one knew who we were or what our perspective was. We were still finding our voice. Now that the community has grown so much, I find that most of the content finds me. Ladies are willing to share their stories of how cycling intersects their lives. I can now plan content ahead and hopefully keep my readers inspired.
How has your life changed since you started BGDB?
BGDB has allowed me to meet a lot of amazing people and discover how inclusive the cycling community really is. I’m inspired everyday by the women I’ve met who set out on adventures and cover amazing distances on their bikes and by the brave women who try cycling for the first time. I’m inspired by the women who use cycling in their recovery. I love how cycling intertwines with their courageous comebacks stories. I was super excited to speak at the first ever Pittsburgh Women & Biking Forum in May. I also traveled this year to the National Women’s Bicycling Forum in Washington D.C. and spent the whole day star struck, surrounded by so many leaders in the cycling community whose blogs, sites and tweets I follow. An unexpected and pleasant change is that my family has become more active in cycling. I’d never seen my parents ride a bike my entire life and suddenly they have a new healthy hobby that they can do together.