“One of the things that we really want to do is to create social cohesion in our neighborhoods. There is solid, academically rigorous, peer-reviewed research which says that when community rituals happen in our neighborhoods, social cohesion goes up – Meaning people begin to trust each other more,” says Olatunji Oboi Reed, president & CEO of Equiticity, a Chicago non-profit focused on racial justice and transportation equity. “And that process, we believe, could lead to reduced violence in our neighborhoods.
“When people trust each other more, they are more willing to walk and to bike,” he adds. “The more people that are walking and biking and staying in our neighborhoods to shop and eat – we believe that will have an impact on reducing violence.”
Reed has been working to build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive bicycle culture through Equiticity, which will lead the first annual Madtown Unity Ride on Friday, May, 4, an evening bike ride led by people of color.
“It is a community bicycle ride. Equiticity has been working with [Wisconsin Bike Federation’s] Baltazar [De Anda Santana] and a number of other community-based organizations in Madison to together host this ride. The target audience for this ride are people of color who live in Madison,” Reed tells Madison365. “One of the reasons that we’re doing this is because I’m actually speaking at the Wisconsin Bike Sumit on Saturday.”
The Wisconsin Bike Summit is a full day of education, advocacy, networking, and cycling on Saturday, May 5.
“Bike Summit participants are more than welcome to join us for the community bike ride, as well,” Reed says.
Bikers will meet at the Villager Mall on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and go on a group bike ride of approximately 10 miles through different neighborhoods in the south side of Madison – one of the most diverse zip codes in the state.
The ride will go past places like the Urban League, the Villager Mall, Centro Hispano, Literacy Network, Madison-Area Urban Ministry, Omega School, Madison College South Campus, Penn Park, Boys and Girls Club, Madison Mobile Home Park, Leopold School and Badger Rock Neighborhood Center.
The target audience for this ride is black, brown and Indigenous people of color who live or work in a predominantly low- to moderate-income, communities of color in Madison.
Reed, who was the recipient of the 2015 Transportation Champion of Change award by The White House and the United States Department of Transportation, says that they are working to prioritize the benefits for people of color. “We want people of color to recognize the potential for bikes to improve health, create jobs, reduce violence, and ultimately make our neighborhoods more livable,” he says. “That’s what this experiment is all about.”
Reed launched Equiticity in 2017 with the mission of operating at the intersection of equity, mobility and justice in communities of color across the U.S. and building an equitable, diverse and inclusive bicycle culture in Chicago. Equiticity’s first goal was to establish dockless bike-share “libraries” in two low-to-moderate-income black communities on Chicago’s south and west sides.
Reed is aware that Madison is a world-class biking city and has received many accolades. He’s also aware that Madison’s bike paths have been traditionally almost all-white.
“We want biking to reflect our culture in our neighborhoods. We want people in our neighborhoods to be proud of the fact that they ride a bike. We want them to feel safe,” Reed says. “We want them to express themselves on their bikes and get rid of this idea that this activity of cycling is a ‘white’ activity. We want to own the activity of cycling.”
The first annual Madtown Unity Ride is open to anybody who wants to bike. While the target audience is people of color, the whole Madison community is invited to join the ride.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Reed says. “It’s a great opportunity to come on out and support community-based organizations, support neighborhoods, support the potential for bikes to be transformative in our communities. Come on out and enjoy yourself. Go for a beautiful bike ride … connect with people and learn more about the assets and beauty that exists in our neighborhoods.
“Let’s create a new bicycle revolution in our communities – together,” he adds.
The first annual Madtown Unity Ride will take place Friday, May 4, 5:30-8 p.m., starting and ending at Villager Mall on Park Street. For more information about the event, click here.