The murder of George Floyd, captured in all its cold, methodical, brutality, has ignited a wave of anger, grief and protest as millions of Americans march to say Black Lives Matter. As we look to find ways to turn outrage and grief into sustained action and make this a moment of real change, NJBWC and our community as a whole must take stock, examine our practices, and make sure we are doing our part to fight racism and work for justice, equality, diversity and inclusion.
We have long advocated for safe streets. But we have to recognize that at the most basic level, “safe streets,” means being safe from racist violence and harassment. As the League of American Bicyclists stated earlier this week, “Safe streets for everyone means more than bike lanes and sidewalks. It means that everyone is free to move on our streets, in our neighborhoods, and throughout our cities without fear of violence, racial profiling, or police brutality.”
We recognize that as a community we have to do better to address the barriers to access and inclusion faced by people of color. We have been painfully made aware of the racist targeting of people, “driving while black,” or “jogging while black.” “Bicycle riding while black,” can also be dangerous. For people of color, riding a bicycle or walking in New Jersey is often a very different experience then it is for white people. An experience that they may not survive. For example, officers stopping black people on bicycles for not having a bell on their bikes is often done for harassment, or worse. Those of you who are white and ride bikes, ask yourself, when is the last time you were stopped by a police officer because you did not have a bell on your bike? Chances are, never.
Ahmaud Aubery was shot in a modern-day lynching for the crime of “running while black.” Christian Cooper was threatened with police action for the crime of “birding while black.” We know that people of color face similar threats for merely walking, biking or jogging on the streets of New Jersey.
The NJBWC and our bike/walk community must rededicate itself to finding ways to address this injustice. This means, in part, that:
- There must be equity in the development of Infrastructure projects such as safer streets, bike lanes, greenways and pedestrian walkways, to include communities of color.
- We must find ways to combat harassment of people of color who want to enjoy running, walking or bicycling.
- We must break down other barriers to access for all to the safe enjoyment of streets, parks and natural spaces.
- As an organization and a movement, we must consciously work towards inclusion and diversity at all levels.
We know that the work of NJBWC is only a tiny piece of the great mosaic of change that is necessary in this country, but we believe it is everyone’s responsibility to address the issues of social justice.
Key to our success in fighting inequality and discrimination will be listening to and elevating the voices of those who have endured these injustices over the decades. We want to hear from you what you think are ways we can address these injustices and create safe streets and public places for everyone.
This must be an ongoing conversation and we hope everyone in our community will take part. We can begin by listening and highlighting community members’ experience in our platforms. Please send stories of your experience and your ideas on what is needed to move forward to: @firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Reena Rose Sibayan, The Jersey Journal
Debra Kagan, Executive Director