An Interview with Black Girls Do Bike’s Founder Monica Garrison: 10 Years of BGDB
For the past 10 years, Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) has been changing the landscape of the bicycling movement. Monica Garrison, who founded the grassroots organization, started the organization in 2013 to create a much-needed space for black women and girls to feel welcomed, supported, and encouraged to ride bikes. What began as a small group of black women getting together to ride has grown into a nationwide movement with more than 100 BGDB chapters across the nation, creating opportunities for thousands of black women and girls to experience the joys of cycling.
In recognition of the essential space Monica created for black women in the cycling world, we were proud to honor BGDB with the 2020 ‘Club of the Year’ award at our National Bike Summit. The League created the ‘Club of the Year’ award to recognize clubs that provide exceptional riding events while being inclusive, welcoming, and committed to growing bicycling. BGDB epitomizes what it means to build a national bike movement that reflects America’s diversity and reaffirm the belief that everyone and anyone can and should ride bikes!
When and where did you get the idea to start BGDB?
The inspiration to establish BGDB arose from a period of bike riding during the spring and summer. The experience served as a way to get out of a difficult mental and physical rut, reigniting my love for cycling and allowing me to explore my city in a new way. My children joined me on some of the rides and shared the excitement of the adventure. As I continued to ride regularly and began to reap the benefits, I realized that there weren’t many women who looked like me riding.
I wanted to connect with more lady riders who shared my passion and spread the happiness and benefits of cycling to other women, especially women of color. I searched the internet for resources but could not find a nationwide initiative that specifically encouraged women of color to participate in cycling. That is when I started the Black Girls Do Bike Facebook page and later a website by the same name.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own organization?
Start by researching the current landscape and identifying gaps or areas for improvement regarding representation and inclusiveness. Develop a clear and compelling mission statement. Find like-minded individuals who share your vision and passion for creating change. Foster a culture of collaboration. Learn from your mistakes. And finally, I’d say be persistent and stay focused.
In terms of inclusion and recognition of black cyclists, what progress do you feel has been made in the 10 years of BGDB?
I think there is a greater awareness of the history of accomplished black historical cycling figures like Major Taylor. I love that many other POC-centered cycling clubs have sprung up over the years. These groups are servicing the needs of cyclists at all levels and are advocating for the needs and rights of cyclists of color. We also have a good network of black cycling leaders who support one another.
In terms of BGDB’s contributions, I value the nationwide network of interconnected cycling groups we have created. Women can connect with BGDB chapters when they travel for rides and fellowship. Every year, we invite the community to a fun and motivational national gathering in a different city to mark a year of riding and commemorate our achievements. Our organization boasts over 180 female leaders actively participating in bike events, workshops, and conferences, bringing forth our valuable perspectives.
There is much more work to be done in building a more inclusive, safer bicycling community for all. What are some of the barriers you see?
In our 2021 “Reconnecting to the New Majority” report, we researched the many barriers to biking for people from underrepresented and underserved communities. Read the full report.
There is a history of a lack of investment in safe cycling infrastructure, like proper bike lanes, trails, and dedicated cycling areas, and discriminatory policing, which makes it especially difficult and dangerous for women and people of color to bike. Furthermore, stereotypes and cultural biases can discourage people from taking up cycling. There’s also a lack of access to educational resources to learn about cycling and how to ride safely and a lack of access to owning bicycles and bike gear, which can be expensive and make it difficult for lower-income people to participate. Overcoming these barriers requires continued advocacy, investment, and effort to create more equitable and easily accessed cycling opportunities.
Black Girls Do Bike chapters will gather for a multi-day national meetup this August in San Diego, California, to celebrate its 10 years of excellence. Learn more about how to attend at www.blackgirlsdobike.org/10-years-strong-meetup.