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Black Girls Do Bike By Cheryl Boswell

More girls on bikes color_1Most people who know me know that cycling is a passion of mine. Riding outside with the sun and wind to my back is an enjoyable and relaxing experience. For me, there is a feeling of pure bliss and freedom when riding my bike. If I can ride with a group, it’s even more fun. Although I’m not the fastest and often the last one to check in when riding with big groups, my competitive spirit has let me come to grips with being dead last and just riding for the pure fun of it, all while getting some health benefits in the process.

Several months ago, a friend (Tim Beeney) who is an avid cyclist and one of the founders of Bike Peoria, introduced me to an organization called Black Girls Do Bike with hopes of getting more African Americans interested in cycling. In March the opportunity presented itself to start a bicycle chapter in Peoria. Black Girls Do Bike-Peoria was started a month later. The National BGDB was founded in 2013 by Monica Garrison with the purpose of introducing the joy of cycling to all women while supporting and sharing positive images of ladies and their bicycles. Currently, there are more than 100 BGDB chapters across the country, and Peoria has its very own chapter.

My personal reason for starting a BGBD chapter was two-fold. First, I wanted to see more women and girls out on a bike and share my passion for riding. Second, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes are often preventable with something as simple as exercise. I hope to use cycling to help address some of the preventable health diseases that disproportionately affect African Americans.

Girls bike 2 col color_1This past Halloween, I had the opportunity to ride with ten other girls from GLOW-Girls Light Our Way, who attend Manual High School. GLOW is an organization created to improve the lives of girls in areas of health, self-efficacy, and financial literacy. Dawn Jefferies, the founding president of GLOW, states the primary goal is to reduce disparity and improve economic access through activity-based and leadership skills training. After attending workshops on how to fix flats and learning basic bike mechanics, the girls were ready for their first bike ride. Some of the girls had never ridden a bike before or owned one. Bike Peoria donated some refurbished bicycles and conducted workshops on bike mechanics. On a beautiful Halloween afternoon, the girls, decked out in their GLOW Rider black shirts rode from Manual High School to Trewyn, and to Proctor Center. About a five-mile ride. Our group had support from members and friends of Bike Peoria, and people who live in the community.

Black Girls Do Bike has afforded me the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people. Though the title says Black Girls, BGDB is an inclusive organization like the cycling community is in Peoria. I hope we can get more girls and women out to ride. You can visit us on Facebook at blackgirlsdobikePeoria to learn more about the organization, become a member, or participate in an event. There is no cost for the membership.