Avid cyclist Marcus Robinson no longer felt safe riding his bike after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in handcuffs after a Minnesota policeman kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
When his Boulder friend and fellow cyclist Neal Henderson checked in with him, Robinson detailed his fears and shared that his wife, a nurse, was buying a treadmill so she should keep running and still feel safe.
“I said, ‘I’m not OK,’ ” said Robinson, who lives in Denver.
Henderson offered to organize a group of riders to go with Robinson on his next ride, then the two decided to think bigger. They organized the first Ride for Racial Justice in Denver in June, then held a second event Sunday at Boulder’s Stazio Ballfields.
“This is how we’re going to change it,” Robinson said. “We have to have conversations.”
About 40 people pre-registered for the event, while more showed up in the morning. Along with building community awareness and solidarity in cycling, the ride was a fundraiser as the co-founders complete the process of filing for 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
Henderson said hearing that his friend was afraid to ride his bike was “just appalling,” adding he wants to use his privilege as a white man to encourage support for people of color and create a more inclusive cycling community.
“It’s hard to fathom how this systemic racism continues to happen without real change being enacted,” he said. “If the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) community could have changed it by themselves, they would have done it. You have to say something. You have to do something.”
The socially distanced ride was held on a ten-mile route, with participants encouraged to ride anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Nakira Doss, who lives in Green Valley Ranch, said she’s turned to bike riding as a way to get out of the house during the coronavirus and stay healthy.
“I’m African American, so I have to support this cause,” she said. “I like seeing the support here for us.”
Jennifer Sharp came to the event as an ally and said she was glad to see the event held in her city.
“To have this in Boulder, it’s huge,” she said. “It’s nice to feel like you can have something you can actually do instead of just read more or watch a documentary.”
Scott Berryman, who lives in Boulder and is a former national sprint champion, called Floyd’s death a seminal moment.
“People realized we have a lot more in common than what has divided us,” he said, adding he wants to see the current movement for racial justice in America mirror what happened in South Africa — become too big to stop.
Other supporters included gold medal cyclist Connie Carpenter and former Olympic and professional cyclist David Phinney.
“It’s people who love bikes and want more people to ride them,” Carpenter said.
For more information, go to rideforracialjustice.org.