Diverse Voices in Outdoor Recreation

Posted on by Isabelle Brown

Black history is still being made every day in the United States. For this week’s Black History Month blog post, we’d like to look at racial diversity and its place in outdoor recreation, specifically biking and running. Two environmentally sustainable modes of transportation and exercise, these activities may seem trivial to some. But for Black Americans, there are still glass ceilings to shatter within these communities.

Cycling

It seems that there is a prevalent lack of racial diversity in outdoor recreational sports. But you would be surprised to learn that the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2019 Participation Report shows that 26.3% of outdoor participants were BIPOC, with Black Americans above any other ethnic group. This brings us to the actual problem: A historic lack of representation.

Whether you notice it or not, cycling is often depicted in the lens of a particular class: white, cisgender, and able-bodied people. How do we break through the exclusive perspective that cycling has taken on?

We can start by sharing the mission of diverse groups in the cycling community that are creating inclusive spaces for Black cyclists. The All Mountain Brothers are part of the movement to diversify the outdoors with their BIPOC mountain biking group. Black Girls Do Bike are creating a community of Black women who share the passion of cycling. Diversify Outdoors is a group who works to promote diversity in all outdoor spaces for BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and any other identity that has been underrepresented.

Running

When a Sunday afternoon in Brunswick, GA, became a day of tragedy, the black running community mourned together for Ahmaud Arbery. On February 23, 2020, the 25-year-old young man was pursued by armed men and killed while on his daily jog.

The death of this innocent Black man highlights the terrifying reality for many Black Americans, not just those who run. But for the diverse community known as F.E.A.R., this heightened a daily threat for these runners. F.E.A.R., Forget Everything And Run, is an organization of young professionals with a passion for health, fitness, socializing, and running, who have paved their own space in the running community for Black and POC athletes in a predominantly white community.

Created in 2016, F.E.A.R. has since been recognized on Today, The Run Wave Podcast, Runner’s World, and more. Headquartered in Milwaukee, F.E.A.R. centers their mission on bridging the gap in the running community and building relationships. “Diversity is key and making sure all runners, especially minority runners, are represented.”

Representation Matters

Representation in these sustainable modes of transportation and pieces of a healthy lifestyle is so important. Cycling brings issues of economics and class: the cost barrier to buy a bicycle, the lack of safe bike routes and lanes in cities and towns, and overall, the discriminatory history of the activity.

Luckily, there are organizations popping up in local communities helping to close the gap in accessibility to bikes. In our own community, there are bike shops that collect donated bikes, refurbish them, and even provide training on fixing them, like BiCi Co. in Hartford, CT, and Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op in New Haven.

As Black Americans reclaim their power and place in the cycling and running communities, they are showing the Black youth in our country that they are welcome, they are worthy, and they part of the shift in ending racism in outdoor recreation.