Bicycling and Social Justice

Elly Blue is a big part of why I'm a bike activist.

I mean, there are other big parts as well. Falling in with a crowd of friendly cyclists near my home in College Park at a weeknight potluck, for instance, or towing a cantankerous trailer with pro-cycling messages around every part of DC have to be on the list too.

But, if I had to explain the economic, political, and above all ethical importance of my bike work, I could only do it with reference to her.

Riding a bike is powerful. It liberates people from so many of the stupid, useless limitations that have been imposed on them by their gender, location, class, status, or other stupid and useless reason. The humble bicycle is a tool for social change, for building communities, for creating and using the power that justly belongs to all human beings but has been crushed by systematic and unjust structures in our society.

Her Everyday Bicycling may be the best introduction to riding a bike for transportation, along with a patient and cheerful friend—a short and joyful contrast to previous ponderous, technical, and intimidating guides, which came with a healthy helping of patriarchal elitism. Less focused on how to overhaul your hubs than awesome ways to improve your life, Everyday Bicycling captures the power and joy of living life on two wheels.

In Bikenomics, she makes this case for communities. For anyone interested in transportation advocacy or activism, Bikenomics is the essential handbook. Yes, as its subtitle claims, it's about "how bicycling can save the economy," but it's about more than just our narrow late capitalist conception of "the economy;" it's about creating community, fighting back against every inhuman force that would separate us from our world, our neighbors, and ourselves, and creating a more equitable, inclusive, and just society in the process. It's a DIY guide to improvising with the two wheels you have at hand engines of opportunity, entrepreneurship, and engagement.

And, of course, there's the many articles and blog posts, the Taking the Lane 'zine series and Journal of Bicycle Feminism that evolved from it, theBikes in Space anthologies of feminist bicycling science fiction, the Our Bodies, Our Bikes anthology, the records of personal lived experience with speculative fiction, practical advice with flights of fancy, the heartache, love, pain, and joy of riding a bike captured as best language can—yes, all of that.

This is why we're excited—I'm excited—to host Elly Blue at our downtown shop (440 K NW) on 9 March to talk about the bicycle as a tool for social change.

By Phill Melton

Wednesday March 9th 7:30pm | 440 K Street NW 

Elly Blue and Joe Biel present Groundswell, an interactive program of short documentaries and discussion about people who are use bicycles as innovative tools to make their lives and communities better. We'll show how Reading, PA came to be 13th on the East Coast for bike commuting without any advocacy or government spending, a film about former gang members riding bikes to raise awareness about gang violence, Mexico City’s superhero of the streets, Peatonito, the story of the League of American Bicyclists’ equity council, how the City of Portland’s Sunday Parkways worked as a response to gentrification, and more ways that cyclists are representing themselves and creating their own voices all over the world.