Celebrating MLK's legacy by bike

  "Martin Luther King Seaview, Fire Island, NY. Sept. 2, 1967."   Photo: Stan Wolfson, Newsday

"Martin Luther King Seaview, Fire Island, NY. Sept. 2, 1967." Photo: Stan Wolfson, Newsday

“Bike the change you wish to see.” About 30 bicyclists answered this call and participated in our 2015 Ride on Washington on January 17. Visiting historic sites, we celebrated our community and our collective power to transform it for the better. 

Bicycles are the very definition of empowerment. They represent freedom and the power to make forward progress. Like the civil rights movement, they don’t advance on their own but rely on human strength and sense of direction to reach the destination.

Bikes are a social equalizer and community builder. They break down the barriers (both physical and socially constructed) that people tend to build up and inspire interaction and human connections.

Leaving from our shop in Chinatown, we made our way down Pennsylvania Avenue to Freedom Plaza. This public square is located blocks from the Willard Hotel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. put the finishing touches on his 1968 "I Have a Dream" speech. 

This square was renamed from Western Plaza to Freedom Plaza in honor of King. Today it remains a popular site of protests and assemblies. 

From Freedom Plaza, we headed to the site of the March on Washington, the National Mall, where some 250,000 people marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. 

In 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened on 1964 Independence Avenue, the address in honor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

We headed across the Anacostia River to explore the home of one of the 19th century's most influential African-American leaders. 

Cedar Hill - Frederick Douglass House in Anacostia.

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Douglass' front porch offered expansive views of the whole city. 

As we coasted down from Cedar Hill, riders remarked on the unique opportunity that bicycling in DC provides, the chance to ride through history around every turn. 

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We returned via Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, circling Kingman Island and RFK Stadium as we headed back downtown. 

Lunch was a time to feed mind, body and spirit all at once, building community as we quieted our growling stomachs at &pizza.

It was no accident that lunch was held at &pizza. This popular and rapidly growing DC small business has an admirable commitment to the community. They have an ongoing charitable initiative to donate food to social service organizations. They also invite customers to write in and tell them about the community causes they support. 

On short notice, &pizza not only opened their doors to our large group, but donated pizzas for our lunch. We express the deepest respect to a kindred small business that will really go the extra mile for a worthy cause. &pizza answered our call to serve honorably and deliciously. 

Leading a frank discussion, BicycleSPACE staffer Leah Fantle posed these questions to the group:

  • How did it feel to be passing through these sites today?
  • Which stood out to you the most?
  • Have you ever participated personally/physically in a protest or march? Do you think you would have participated back in 1963?
  • What kinds of actions can Americans take today to have an impact on causes that are important to us?
  • Do you think these have as big of an impact as physical congregations?
  • What are some of the biggest social movements that you have seen? What pushed them over the tipping point?
  • In what ways has American culture towards civil rights changed or stayed the same since the time of MLK? In what ways has it legally changed and in what ways have cultural perceptions towards it changed or stayed the same?
  • What can we learn from the nonviolent movement that we can apply to our everyday lives?
  • In what ways can we support those still struggling and striving for equality? Is solidarity or clicktivism enough, or are there real actions we can or should take?
  • Biggest takeaways or thing learned from today? Has your perspective shifted or changed? In what ways?

Interested in more events like this ? Sign up for our newsletter or share your feedback in the comments. BicycleSPACE regularly hosts free classes and rides that directly support local community groups.