Did You Know? Biking Black History

Blog: Bike Underground Railroad Sign

[Image Description: An official plaque in the foreground reads, “A Gateway to Freedom. Many freedom-seekers coming through New Albany achieved their goal, traveling as far north as Canada. The Underground Railroad refers to a widespread network of diverse people in the nineteenth century who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S.” In the background, a blurred bicycle rider in red rides down a paved street.]

Did you know there is a bicycle route that travels along the Underground Railroad – from Mobile, Alabama to Owen Sound, Ontario? The Adventure Cycling Association and the Center for Minority Health from Pittsburgh, PA partnered to develop this 2,100 mile route which uses the historic “Follow the Drinking Gourd” spiritual as a guide through America’s past and as an inspiration for cultural exploration and physical well-being.


For more information check out:


Class is back in session

Classes are booming at Bike Works. Check out the youth & adult class programs pages to learn about all of our offerings! All registration fees are available on a sliding scale.

[Image Description: Woman with short hair in a cycling cap stands in front of a seated group of adults holding a bicycle part in front of her. The class is out of focus, leaning in to see the bicycle part. It is dark outside the windows.]

[Image Description: A young man in a red shirt wearing a black shop apron holds a tool out toward a bicycle. Only the rear wheel of the bicycle is visible. The student looks focused, reaching for a wire with the tool. A wall of tools is our of focus in the background.]

Paving the Way: Black Women Bicycling

Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson and Constance White. In 1928, these 5 African American women rode 250 miles – from New York City to Washington, DC – in just 3 days! What inspired this journey? Simply the joy of bicycling!

History doesn’t tell us much about their adventure. Once in Washington, DC they went sightseeing and paused to take this photo for a local newspaper.

Historian Marya McQuirter shares what she learned while researching the social history of blacks in D.C. during the first half of the 20th century for her dissertation on an episode of the Bicycle Story. We do know that one rider worked at the Harlem YWCA and another at the Sargent School of Physical Training. It seems very likely that they were in the forefront of promoting women and bicycling access. Thank you for helping to pave the way!

Listen Now


Check out some of these great organizations who ride together for simply the joy of bicycling!

You’ve heard of Pay it Forward

Now there’s Patch it Forward!

Not having access to the tools or knowledge to fix a flat is a significant barrier to your neighbors who rely on their bikes. You can be the difference between a neighbor getting where they need to go or being stranded with a flat.

#PatchitForward Means

Giving Self-Reliance & Confidence

#PatchitForward means celebrating the power learning to fix a flat. This is one of the first things taught in our classrooms because it builds confidence. It shows that you are capable of biking to wherever your legs can take you with the assurance that you can make it home again.

Promoting Sustainability

#PatchitForward keeps otherwise usable parts on the road and out of the trash. Rather than a one way path from department store to landfill, a patching a tube keeps useful things working as long as possible.

Being a part of something

#PatchitForward shows the importance of community. Help prevent someone from getting stranded by giving the tools and knowledge to fix their flat. It’s not about how much you give, it’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself.


“At Bike Works, one of the first skills we teach in any class is how to fix a flat tire. It may sound simple, but knowing how to patch a tube and replace a tire goes a long way towards feeling empowered and confident on the road.”

Shawna Williams

Make a gift in support of Bike Works programs & keep your neighbors rolling!

News: South Seattle Emerald talks to Bike Works

Homer and Tina, Bike Works staff, were featured in an article written by Agatha Pacheco for the South Seattle Emerald. Read their thoughts on the changing demographics of Columbia City over the past 14 years. Our new strategic plan renews the commitment of Bike Works to Southeast neighborhoods.

Support bicycle access, environmental stewardship, and youth empowerment by making a contribution today. Or get involved by coming to one of our weekly volunteer repair parties! All mechanical abilities are welcome.

“It’s always changing. The area has become so gentrified that who we were serving six years ago is totally different to who we are serving now,” [Homer] tells me.

He adds that throughout the years he’s seen his neighborhood becoming predominantly whiter and wealthier every day, displacing the low-income people in the area Bike Works aimed to help.


Presenting: Youth Advisory Committee Bake Sale!

In tandem with the upcoming Annual Warehouse Sale, the Bike Works Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) will be hosting a bake sale to raise travel funds for the Youth Bike Summit.
Youth Bike Summit is a unique opportunity for our youth to engage the local community and strengthen the national bicycle movement while learning the skills they need to become empowered bicycle leaders. It’s also an incredible chance for youth involved with Bike Works to form significant and impactful relationships within the larger cycling and advocacy community. This year, it will be hosted in Washington D.C. by Phoenix Bikes.

Come find the YAC at the warehouse and get some delectable homemade goodies to fuel your frenzy at Bike Works’ biggest sale of the year! Join us in supporting the ambitions of our youth THIS Sunday, January 29th from 10am to 4pm!

Want to know more?

The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is made up of truly amazing Bike Works youth that are dedicated to facilitating conversation and decision making at Bike Works and reflect the wishes of Bike Works youth. They are driven and devoted to furthering the mission and vision of the Bike Works community. They are awesome!

Karaoke for Bike Works

Soul Crank
Sun, January 15th
9pm – late
Stone Lounge
1020 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

Bike Works Board member, Colina, invites you to celebrate her birthday at a very 90’s birthday party karaoke! Come sing your heart out with live bands at Stone Lounge in Bellevue. The party starts at 9 pm. Cover charge is $10 and all proceeds go to supporting Bike Works programs. Happy birthday Colina!

Wish Colina a happy birthday or RSVP on her Facebook event page!

Happy New Year!

[Image Description: Three adults gather around a bicycle wheel. The person on the far right is holding the wheel, demonstrating  mechanics on the center of the wheel. The other two adults watch with aprons on and heads bent over the wheel.]

[Image Description: A young rider smiles while steering a blue bicycle with a blue ribbon tied to the black handlebars. In front, the top of an orange caution cone is visible with the word “test” hanging from it. The kid is bundled in a dark, puffy coat and two older youth stand behind watching.]

[Image Description: A group of girls in an array of brightly colored clothing stand together, looking at the camera. They are holding pieces of a bicycle together to make the shape of a bike. Two girls are sitting on the floor, one is holding the front wheel and the other is holding the crank.]

What an inspiring year!

Your support made it possible to accomplish some amazing things in 2016:

7,000 used bicycles were rescued from the waste stream

Over 1,250 youth participated in Bike Works programs

Over 700 low-income youth and adults gained access to a working bicycle

And so much more!

Special #shoutout

to some of the Bike Works partners that made this year extra special

[Image Description: A collage of logos ranging from large at the top (Washington Bike Law) to smaller at the bottom. In order from top to bottom, left to right: Washington Bike Law, Washington Health Plan Finder, Total Reclaim, MiiR, Evo, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Vulcan, GLY Construction, Washington Federal, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Children’s, Obliteride, Ecotope, Garage, and Alpha Graphics.]

Van Asselt Youth Get Some Bikes

Bike Works has over 92 community partners. Each partnership is unique and allows us to do what we do best – use the bicycle as a vehicle for positive change. This heart warming email to the Van Asselt Elementary School staff highlights what we love about these partnerships.

Hi all,

I’ve been partnering with Bike Works, a local bike shop in Columbia City, for the last 5 years to get Van Asselt students free bicycles.  Wednesday afternoon was our most recent clinic.  During the clinics, Bike Works staff come to Van Asselt and lead bike skills & safety drills where kids practice riding through an obstacle course, learn road safety and hand signals.  They also learn how to do a pre-ride “ABC safety check” (air in the tires, brakes working, chain tight) to make sure their bikes are safe and functioning correctly.  At the end of the clinic, they get to keep a free BMX bike, helmet and bike lock.

This time around we had 6 kids participate, three 5th graders and three 4th graders.

UGGAB: Two youth in helmets at Van Asselt Youth getting ready to ride the obstacle course Youth enjoying the ride around the obstacle course
[Image Description: Two youth stand side by side in helmets in the school gym, the shiny wood floor and compressed bleachers visible behind. Both looking at the camera, excited and also a little timid. The student on the right is wearing a gray long sleeved tee with a black and red-pinstriped sports jersey over the top and a matte black helmet. The student on the left is wearing a navy long sleeved shirt with a navy & white horizontal striped shirt layered on top and a shiny black helmet.] [Image Description: A student sits atop a black BMX bike with their feet and kickstand both on the ground. Wearing jeans, a navy hoodie with a neon green design, and a shiny black helmet, his cheeks are puffed in concentration. He stares at the bicycle tire just visible in front of him. Another youth on a red bike is visible in the background , with one leg on the pedal and the other on the floor he is preparing to take off.] [Image Description: A youth rides toward the camera on a blue BMX bike, looking past a cone on the ground that sits to his left. He is smiling, wearing jeans, and a olive and rust colored camo sweatshirt. He is riding in a gym, the shiny wood floor reflecting light. There are other kids on bikes off in the far corner of the picture with some adults talking them through their ride.]

Actually, this was part of the obstacle course – kids had to take one hand off the bars and look back over their shoulder to identify which sign the adult was holding (car, bus, cow). Now I know why the call him “Mr Moo”!

Educator holding a sign as part of the obstacle course
[Image Description: An adult looks at the camera, mouth upturned in a smile, holding a sign with the silhouette of a cow on it. The sign is large, covering most of his chest. He has light brown hair and is wearing a bright green and blue scarf]

Bike Works is a local bike shop in Columbia City (on S Ferdinand St, right around the corner from the Columbia City Bakery).  It’s a pretty unique organization in that they have a huge focus on education and empowerment of youth.  They offer many youth (and adult) classes and lead many bicycling events/rides.  They also have a very successful recycle & reuse program.

Blue BMX bike against the fence

[Image Description: A blue BMX bike, kickstand down, is in front of a chain link fence. The handlebars are turned in and the bike is locked to a post in the fence.]

One more pic.  Here’s what I saw on my way into the building yesterday: 

William rode his new bike to school the next morning!  That’s what this program is all about.

All for now,

[Van Asselt Educator]







It takes valuable staff time and resources to prepare these bikes for their new homes, to deliver them to the school, and to host educational (and fun!) bicycle rodeos so that the students feel confident riding their bicycle. Your support keeps these empowering programs pedaling – thank you.