Category Archives: Social Justice

Cycling with Love: Bike as Cultural Icon in China

Chengxin Xu, Seattle University

20 years ago, when cars were still considered luxury goods, almost everyone in Shanghai owned a bike, and most of them cycled everyday. That included working-age people cycling for work, elders cycling for grocery shopping, and kids cycling with their parents to school. Most kids did not have their own bikes until middle school, because for most families, bikes were still relatively expensive, and letting kids cycle on streets with other vehicles was not considered safe. Thus, kids cycling with their parents basically means kids sitting at the back or front of their parents’ bikes. I did this until I got my first bike at 14 years old. Every time when I was “cycling” with my father, I felt strongly bonded with him, physically and emotionally.

This is not only for me—cycling with parents is a shared memory of many people at my age (born in 80s). What we have in common is not only cycling but also the melancholia and yearning for our parents, who are growing old, and our childhood, which is fading away.

A Cantonese song by Eason Chan opened the gate to such feeling beautifully:

It’s hard to say goodbye. I want to hold you tight.
	We have such a long life, which seems like a wild land.
	If a kid could hold dad’s back, who wants to get off the bike?
	It’s hard to say goodbye. We always have such kind of feeling.
This is our life, and there is no way to deny.
	But no matter how cruel the world is,
	when I thought about the bike,
	I can still borrow the happiness from the good old days.

While I am crying over my childhood, parents were considered as the most significant barrier against every Asian kid’s freedom. Like other kids, I was so eager to have my own bike, so that I could go anywhere I wanted. Indeed, even with fantastic public transportation, a bike still greatly enhances people’s mobility in a city like Shanghai. Therefore, when I got a bike, I started to go wild. I felt I had finally been released. My own bike allowed me to go everywhere that I wanted but couldn’t previously—street foods and arcades. Interestingly, although I was released from my parents’ care on the bike, I unintentionally inherited the meaning of a bike—the bond between the rider and the passenger—and I transferred the bond with my parents to my girlfriends. And that is also an iconic image of love in China: while we can not afford a car, with a bike, we can still go everywhere. This was the greatest freedom in my mind.

(From the film by Chan Ho Sun: Comrades: Almost a Love Story. In the picture: Maggie Cheung Man-yuk and Leon Lai Ming)

To many Chinese at my age or older, bike is our only affordable substitute for a vehicle. Still, it drastically enhances our mobility in a city, especially in large cities such as Shanghai and Hong-Kong. With a bike, the city becomes smaller, and we can go anywhere we want with our families and loved ones, on which we build beautiful memories and unforgettable feelings. Nowadays, bike is no longer the first choice for transportation—in Shanghai, more than half of the total households own at least one car now. Recently, biking is becoming a mid-class lifestyle, which is quite similar to the fact in the U.S. However, the low-income population still relies on bikes heavily because of its convenience, efficiency, and affordability. I wish we can keep affordable bikes in the market, because that is not only an option of commuting, but also two cycles carrying family, freedom, and love for everyone to everywhere.

May’s Bicycle Story

in Honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

This reflection is from a community member, May. May originally rode her bike in Southeast China (Canton Province), and now rides with her family in Seattle. The month of May also happens to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! We hope you enjoy this story and the photos in honor of May’s family and heritage, and for all of our Asian & Pacific Islander friends, family, and neighbors. All photos courtesy of May.

Biking is so much fun to me. I always feel as free as the wind when I am riding a bike. I can also enjoy viewing the different sceneries along my ride. Biking is an effective way for me to relieve stress from work after sitting for hours in front of a computer. It is also such a good exercise that could keep me healthy and fit.

I hadn’t been biking for many years after I moved to Seattle back in 2003 since I did not know much about biking here. The roads and safety seemed to be a big challenge to me, and I felt a little bit scared. Most importantly, I did not find a group of people who could share the same interest in biking. With the addition of three young kids, my life has become so busy that I could hardly find the time or energy for my own hobbies or interests. In recent years, I have come to know more about Bike Works through their programs and activities they have been offering or hosting.

A young girl on a pink bike with a mask on

All my three kids, two teens and a 10-year-old girl, have received a free bike each from Bike Works when they were in preschool at the REWA childcare center. They were so excited after they got their own bikes and would like to keep biking and biking without a stop in our neighborhood park. My two teenage boys used to love biking so much and they would bike every day when they were younger, but they do not bike much in recent years since they have been engaged with other fun activities. I feel that they are a little more reluctant to bike with mom nowadays since they are two teenagers trying their best to be themselves now. Bike Works had the mobile repair van located in our New Holly neighborhood last year and the helpful mechanic had kindly helped my boys fix the problems of their bikes. We are so grateful to Bike Works for its being available in our neighborhood!

A silhouette of a young person on a bike by the water with the sun shining behind her A young person on a bike at the Seattle waterfront on a partly sunny day

Compared to my kids, I was not so lucky as they are in regard to having the kid’s bike available for me to use when I was in elementary school. I learned how to bike together with my big brother on my own (basically self-taught) when I was about in 5th grade. Back then we did not have any kid’s bike to use, and we had to borrow my dad’s adult bike which was my family’s only bike. My legs were way too short, and I had to make full use of the triangle that the bike had. When I was in middle school, our family finally had a second bike that was available for me and brother to use. As I grew older, I rode the bike to help carry clean water home for cooking, to commute to the fields (plot assigned to each family in the rural area to grow rice and vegetables) to help my parents grow and harvest vegetables, and to buy groceries from the market. It was not until I graduated from university and started working that I finally had my own bike. Just like my kids, I biked almost every day after work since I had my own bike. It helped a lot in relieving the stress from work. The most memorable bike ride is the one I had together with my colleague when we traveled to Yunnan Province in Southwest China. We each rented a bike and rode the bike to see the amazing field of rapeseed flowers and a historical town.

As my kids are growing bigger, it is time to pick up my biking journey again after pressing the pause button for so many years and create new biking chapters. Currently, I do not have my own bike and have been using one of my son’s bikes even though it is a little bit too small for me.  I biked in Seward Park together with my daughter and younger son often when the weather was fine last year. My daughter and I once took the link light rail to UW Station and then biked all the way back to Seward Park. Unfortunately, the small bike I have been using got stolen recently when I was standing on top of a small hill waiting for my daughter’s school bus to arrive while the bike was parked at the foot of the hill. I definitely need to get another bike as soon as possible in order to get myself back to the track of cycling again. I would like to get more involved with Bike Works in the future because the organization has such an amazing group of people ready and willing to help people who has interest or needs in biking.

Two people high-fiving from their bike saddles

May’s daughter (left) and Bike Works Recycle & Reuse Operations Manager Allie (right) high-fiving after a community ride in November 2021 in honor of Marshall “Major” Taylor.

Black History Month: Reflections from the Saddle

Aaron Yoon, Bike Works Stewardship Manager, February 2022

In the mid 90s I worked on a school tile art project as a young student at North City Elementary school in Shoreline. My creation at the time featured two hands shaking. One black, one white. I’m not sure if I should get any creativity points, but more importantly, this project was inspired by Edwin Pratt, one of Seattle’s prominent civil rights leaders in the 60s who moved with his family to a near all-white Shoreline in 1959. 

Living in Cap Hill and the CD most of my life, I’ve seen the parks and dedications for Edwin Pratt. Although he has been in my mind here and there, I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally followed up with the leader and his legacy since that simple tile art I worked on.

This Black History Month, I wanted to reflect on Edwin’s work with a Sunday afternoon bicycle journey from my apartment in Columbia City back to the Central District, where Pratt was on the frontlines in the fight against redlining and housing discrimination in Seattle

First stop – Pratt Park (20th & Yesler)

A grassy field and tree at Pratt Park, with a bike leaning up against a picnic table.

As Edwin Pratt was a champion in the fight for fair housing practices, I’m reminded that although practices such as redlining and the disgusting racial restrictive covenants in so many King County neighborhoods may have ended, it’s hard not to see the connection and impact so visible today as I ride. 

The sun was out and I was in a reflective mode, so I thought I’d listen to some of my favorite local hip-hop on the way. As I ride up through Judkins Park and roll past the Franz bakery outlet, Draze’s “The Hood Ain’t the Same” (2014) is playing and I’m feeling it.

Draze raps:

“The blocks went naked and the gentrification came,

Garfield, Franklin, rivalries ain’t even the same,

Mark my words, it’s gonna be white boys all on the team,

I don’t reminisce when I drive through this hood I feel pain,

I ain’t proud of these new developments I feel shame…

I guess Kent is the new South End, and the South End is the CD, 

and CD is just a thing of the past…

Used to own our homes, now we’re all renters,

Got folks moving south like birds for the winter,

They asked momma to sell our home she said ‘no’,

But then we had to shake when the property taxes rose”

Next up – Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (14th & Yesler)

I’m enjoying the views dropping down west on Yesler as the Olympics are out and the iconic Smith Tower is straight ahead. As I pass by the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute I realize that I have yet to attend any event in the space. I’m definitely checking the schedule now and I’ll be back.

At the bottom of the hill at the corner 14th & Yesler I roll up at the Urban League’s headquarters located at the historic St. George building built in 1910. Edwin Pratt served as the Executive Director of the Urban League during the 1960’s and housing justice continues to be a core value in their mission today. The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) has a vision for equity for all and working towards self-sufficiency in all aspects of life. The five areas of focus are advocacy & civic engagement, education, housing, public health, and workforce development.

As the Central District and housing are on my mind, ULMS promotes housing justice through Eviction Prevention, Homeownership services, Financial Empowerment classes, Homeless outreach, and the Urban League Village. I particularly enjoyed looking up the ULMS schedule and seeing such a rich variety of intriguing events such as a youth mental health workshop, job readiness training and BIPOC job fairs, and especially the Future Voters Talent Show. It’s cool to see the Homebuyer Education Classes & Credit Counseling Workshops being offered every month as it encourages me to take some classes too.

It’s rare to find organizations with such a deep and authentic history in Seattle. Thank you Urban League for your work.

Last Stop – 23rd & Union

I swing up 14th and I ride past the King County Youth Detention Center where 50% of the youth are Black, 25% Latinx, and 20% White. I’m like, “We spent a quarter billion dollars on this… damn.” I ride on.

I reach Union, take a right, and get some work in climbing up and over down to 23rd, perhaps the original Ground Zero of gentrification in Seattle. I play only one track on the way there.

Again, Draze speaks to me, this time through Irony On 23rd (2016):

“The greed, the lust, insatiable appetite,

The conscience ear, but the inability to sacrifice…

Are we so gone we can’t practice a little discretion?

There’s nothing to think about, this is not okay,

What the hell are these politicians thinking anyway,

We pay taxes too, 23rd’s all tore up,

Then our businesses fail, I guess the hood is for sale,

The enemy is faceless, and it’s the system that rapes us,

Empty bike lanes, guess the hood needed a facelift…

We was redlining, but now we blackballed out,

So they can sell green, had to paint the flag on the crosswalk for ourself…

How many brothers went to jail on this corner for moving dime bags?

In a week he doing what, a couple hundred grand?…

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?”

Discrimination then forced Blacks in, discrimination now forces Blacks out. The enemy may be faceless, but the victims, the stories, and the pain is real.

On my back to the South End I roll past Jimi Hendrix Park and the Northwest African American Museum. I see Black, Brown, and Asian youth playing touch football and I’m feeling more inspired. It’s time for a strong ride back and to turn up my tunes a notch.

For my final tracks, I put on my favorite local hip-hop album, “From Slaveships to Spaceships”, released on Juneteenth 2009 by South Seattle MC, Khingz. I bop my head to the beat and listen to the personal stories of perseverance I hear on Prodigal & the title track, From Slaveships to Spaceships. I’m feeling it and I’ll be ready to put in the work on Monday.

Thank you, Edwin Pratt, for your work, your legacy, and providing the inspiration to ride and reflect. 

The Pratt Family: Bettye, Miriam, and Edwin
(Photo courtesy of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State)

Statement of Solidarity With Asians & Asian Americans

At Bike Works, we unequivocally condemn racism and white supremacy, in all their interpersonal and institutional forms. We are disturbed by the surge in violence directed at Asians and people of Asian descent. Anti-Asian racism is not new in this country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to Japanese internment camps during World War II, to the deadly hate crimes perpetrated in Atlanta against Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim, Daoyou Feng, Xiaojie Tan, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels, Asian communities have endured racism, sexism, and violence in the United States as long as they’ve been in the country. There has been a tragic increase in this type of hatred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on racist and xenophobic lies about the spread of the virus.

The need to join community leaders and organizers to support Asian American communities and combat anti-Asian hate is urgent. Some of the organizations that do this work in Seattle are Kandelia (formerly the Vietnamese Friendship Association), API Chaya, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and many others. Launch suggests this list of Asian and Pacific Islander organizations and businesses to support, as well as other resources in their statement of solidarity. We encourage support of these efforts through financial gifts, volunteerism, and event and rally support.

Seattle Times social justice columnist & assistant managing editor, Naomi Ishisaka, wrote that “Asian Americans may be too-often invisible, but we are a crucial part of the American story. Our history and experiences should be valued and taught. Anything less contributes to the dehumanization and perpetual foreigner status that leads to the kind of tragedy we saw last week in Georgia.” To learn more about Asian-American history, in Seattle and elsewhere, check out this this valuable reading list.

At Bike Works, we believe the bicycle can be a tool for equity and freedom. But this cannot be achieved unless communities impacted by racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and any other form of institutional oppression are centered and uplifted for our collective liberation. We all have work to do to make this liberation a reality. We ask that all members of our community hold us accountable to these goals by becoming involved, asking tough questions, and connecting us with other leaders doing this work for opportunities to partner and collaborate. Systemic racism doesn’t hurt us all equally, but it does hurt us all.

Breaking the Cycle: Kittie Knox

Kittie Knox was a nineteenth century bicycle racer from Cambridgeport, MA, and the first African American to be accepted into the League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.)

Kittie showed interest in cycling at an early age, saving up to buy her first bicycle and quickly gaining local attention for winning many of the competitions she entered.

Black female cyclist Kittie Knox poses with her bicycle in the 1890s

Kittie Knox at Asbury Park. Referee and Cycle Trade Journal, v 15, no.12.

In 1893, she joined L.A.W., only to have her membership questioned after the organization changed its rules to exclude People of Color. Two years later, L.A.W. clarified that despite its racist rule, it would not be retroactively applied, and Kittie retained her membership.

Kittie became popular for her fashionable riding outfits (she worked as a professional seamstress), unique cycling technique, and speed, but she was still the target of both racist and sexist critique. Her physical appearance was frequently scrutinized by journalists, who described her as a “comely colored maiden”, “murky goddess of Beanville”, and “beautiful and buxom black bloomerite.” Throughout her cycling career, she was denied access to meets, and refused service at hotels and restaurants while traveling for races.

Kittie helped pave the way for other women, People of Color, and Black women to become involved in competitive cycling. Despite enduring both racism and sexism, her resiliency and courage played a role in the desegregation of the cycling world.

This post is based on this article about Kittie Knox by Grace Miller in the Smithsonian Archives.

#BlackHistoryMonth

Who we’re supporting

At Bike Works, we believe that bicycles help build resilient communities. But we also understand that bicycles work best in tandem with culturally relevant services, arts, family support, anti-racism, environmental stewardship, housing advocacy, food security, and gender justice. We also believe that when organizations are led by the folks directly affected by the issues they address, and have internal leadership development to empower their young people, communities can really thrive and begin to breakdown systems of oppression.

Below is a list of non-profit organizations that Bike Works staff are supporting. Some are specifically addressing COVID-19 relief. Many serve and are led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. All are providing vital services for connection, expression, and relief during these difficult times.

Check them out!

Real Rent calls on people who live and work in Seattle to make rent payments to the Duwamish Tribe. Though the city named for the Duwamish leader Chief Seattle thrives, the Tribe has yet to be justly compensated for their land, resources, and livelihood.

GotGreen builds community power by waging visionary campaigns at the intersection of racial, economic, gender and climate justice that incite community participation (via robust base-building), provides a pipeline of leadership development for directly impacted communities, and engages in direct action.

Pride Foundation is the only LGBTQ+ community foundation serving the Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Project Feast transforms the lives of refugees and immigrants by providing pathways to sustainable employment in the food industry, and to enriches communities through intercultural exchange.

El Centro de la Raza (The Center for People of All Races) aims to unify all racial and economic sectors; to organize, empower, and defend the basic human rights of our most vulnerable and marginalized populations; and to bring critical consciousness, justice, dignity, and equity to all the peoples of the world.

Reflections on Bicycle/Race

by Allie Sarfaty
Recycle & Reuse Coordinator
They/them

For Bike Works’ antiracist reading project, I picked Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance by Andonia E. Lugo. The book chronicles Lugo’s journey as a transportation advocate in Los Angeles, interwoven with a coming-of-age tale in Orange County with insights into infrastructure policy and urban planning as a whole. Her story tells a cautionary tale of how white bicycle organizers and advocates reinforce racism and oppression in a world where people of color are not seen as the cycling majority, despite the fact that they are disproportionately affected by transportation policies.

While reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised to see Bike Works mentioned. In 2011, Lugo moved to Seattle and was re-energized by the grassroots programming embedded in our organization’s youth Earn-a-Bike and Volunteer Repair Parties. While reflecting on this reading, I thought a lot about how I engage with my community as a white person working in rapidly gentrifying south Seattle, and what it means to be a part of an organization grounded in providing services and resources to people of color. Going forward, I want to continue engaging with my community in meaningful ways in and outside of my job, actively work on improving my own anti-racist practices, and holding myself accountable to undoing white supremacy in the ways that I can.

Interested in what other antiracist books Bike Works staff are reading? Check out the full blog post here.

Equity Reading List

Our shop, warehouse, and programs are currently on hold in order to keep our community as safe and healthy as possible during this time of social distancing. Despite being temporarily closed to the public, the Bike Works staff are still working – building bikes, writing curriculum, investigating new ways to provide products and services, and planning for the future.

Since last fall, our staff, Board of Directors, Youth Advisory Committee, and Racial Equity Task Force have been working with facilitators from Beloved Community to draft our next strategic plan to take us from 2021 – 2025 (check out our 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan on our website here). Beloved Community is a non-profit consulting firm focused on implementing regional, sustainable solutions for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In order to keep up the momentum around this work, and to increase our collective learning, we are all reading a book about race, racism, and/or equity.

Here are the books we are reading – let us know if you’ve got additional recommendations or favorites from this list!

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.

#BlackHistoryMonth

For more information check out:

 

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

#BlackHistoryMonth

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