BGDB founder offers ways to make cycling more inclusive

When Monica Garrison started a Facebook group called Blacks Girls Do Bike (BGDB) in 2013, she was hopeful more than anything else. She was looking for women like her, women of color, who were interested in riding together. Soon, BGDB expanded. Her small riding group in Pittsburgh evolved into a nonprofit organization and chapters began to crop up in other major cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and Houston. Monica now serves as the CEO and chief storyteller of Black Girls Do Bike! which now has over 180 chapters worldwide.

Each chapter has a leader, or shero, who with help from Garrison, spearheads the group by organizing rides, connecting with local bike shops and advocacy groups, and pursuing local partnerships. Sacramento has its own chapter, with one of its sheros, Diana Fountaine, who is also a staff member for Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates.While BGDB’s primary focus is to get women of color on bikes and make the cycling community more inclusive, all women are welcome on rides along with the occasional male relative or ally. In honor of Black History Month and the organization’s 10th year anniversary, we connected with Garrison to ask her a few questions about her vision for BGDB. 

Q: What is your overall inspiring goal with the organization? 

MG: Black Girls Do Bike exists to empower women of color around the country to take up cycling as a form of exercise, recreation, and transportation. The organization aims to create a supportive network of female riders and provide access to resources and events that encourage women to feel confident and safe while exploring on two wheels. 

We have a goal to break down barriers and encourage more diversity in the cycling community, promoting the health, wellness, and overall well-being of women of color. 

Q: What would you tell others to inspire them to get out there and just do it?

MG: Cycling is an incredibly rewarding activity that provides a sense of freedom and adventure. If you’re looking to start cycling, remember that you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the benefits. Start with short rides and gradually increase your distance and intensity as your fitness improves. Don’t worry about speed or performance, and focus on having fun and enjoying the ride. Joining a community, like Black Girls Do Bike, can also provide motivation and support as you begin your cycling journey. With a welcoming and inclusive community, you can meet new friends, learn new skills, and share in the joy of cycling. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone trying to start out a chapter? 

MG: My advice is to create a welcoming atmosphere by ensuring that your chapter is a safe and inclusive space. Encourage participation from people of all skill levels. Be visible and vocal. Make sure people know about your club and what you stand for. Use social media and other channels to promote your chapter. Cultivate relationships with organizations and businesses that align with your our mission. This can help expand your network and find new members. 

Q: What can local advocacy groups do to help local chapters grow? 

MG: Local advocacy groups can provide support to local cycling chapters by helping them promote their activities, connect with potential members, and build partnerships with other organizations. Advocacy groups can offer guidance on best practices for organizing rides and events. They can be a resource for educating cyclists on safe riding practices and local regulations. Additionally, they can advocate for policies and infrastructure improvements that make cycling safer and more accessible in their communities, which can help attract and retain new cyclists. Finally, advocacy groups can collaborate with local cycling chapters on joint initiatives, such as community outreach events or awareness campaigns, to raise the profile of cycling and build broader support for active transportation.

SABA is dedicated to supporting groups that promote inclusivity in cycling and have partnered with the Sacramento chapter. If you are interested in joining BGDB Sacramento, you can join their facebook group, or get in touch.

SABA Exec. Dir. Deb Banks, with Monica at the Phillie Bike Expo, October 2022.

Photo credit top picture: Chancelor Humprey of keep Pitts Dope.
Other pics provided by Monica Garrison.