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Profile in Leadership: Deaf Velo Alliance

This story by Melissa Manak and Nick Ng first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the League’s magazine, American Bicyclist.

During the winter of 2014, a group of five deaf individuals got together to discuss cycling in the city of Chicago — and what the cycling community was lacking.

Despite so many local bike advocacy groups supporting local cycling they felt a lack of support for deaf individuals that wanted to get involved. With that, they started a new group for deaf individuals and others who know sign language to share their passion for cycling. After several meetings and research into other organizations that do similar work, the Deaf Velo Alliance was born with a mission to promote and advocate cycling within the deaf / hard-of-hearing community.

Our role is to educate by using the transactive model. We use deaf-friendly social media to post cycling events for experienced riders and host forums and buddy programs for those who haven’t cycled or are not comfortable cycling within the Chicago area. Our group is open to anyone who is deaf, hard-of-hearing or hearing (and knows sign language) with one goal in mind: cycling for pleasure.

By using social media to our advantage, we have expanded our group from five to more than 70 members from many different parts of the metro area. We plan to build a larger presence within the cycling community by increasing awareness of the diversity of cyclists. This includes further educational collaboration with different bicycling groups within the city, like Slow Roll Chicago, Women Bike Chicago and other organizations and city departments.

Since our beginning, DVA has done several group rides, both short- and long-distance, with members of the deaf community. We have taken advantage of many of Chicago’s existing and new cycling facilities to the benefit of many of our members.

One of the most memorable rides was from the Chicago neighborhood of Rogers Park to Kenosha, Wisconsin, totalling 42 miles with seven individuals of varying cycling skill levels. Our goal was to visit the Kenosha lighthouse and take in the sights of the changing fall season. While the ride was certainly beautiful, we did experience technical challenges. Nonetheless, our spirits were still upbeat all the way to the end. We celebrated with large pizzas.

This year we promoted a 14-mile round trip between the Shedd Aquarium and Promontory Point to celebrate the beginning of the cycling season, which included a stop for eating s’mores around a bonfire. Twelve riders participated in the ride, with one member using the local bike share “Divvy” and three others meeting us there to enjoy plentiful s’mores and the view of the Chicago skyline.

One rider on the bonfire ride mentioned that, through this first group ride, he had learned the value of communicating within group rides, especially when he’s been accustomed to being an independent rider for so long. This reinforces why we started this group: to band together to become an alliance.

Our hope for the future is that we use these rides as a tool in our advocacy work, in addition to expanding our forums and introducing our buddy system to new riders who want to join us.

To learn more, visit

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