Life is back to normal today. 364 cyclists and 84 volunteers collaborated on Saturday 2/21/15 to ride from Selma to Montgomery AL, commemorating the 1965 Voters Rights March, led by John Lewis and M.L. King. From the seed of an idea mentioned in passing on a bike ride by buddy Max Britton to working out the actual route, test riding it last Summer, and then getting momentum from Montgomery Bicycle Club President Jeff Feet (who believed we HAD to go ahead with this idea) and attracting other hard working and talented volunteers, it became a consuming beast of a thing. Our Transportation guru, Jeff Periatt, likened us to ducks; serene above the water but feet paddling madly below the surface. He was spot on. All the while, the regular weekly schedule of club rides continued and did I mention that we have day jobs too?
There were idle discussions, planning meetings at Panera Bread and flurries of emails back and forth. We recruited or drafted help where and when we could and finally put the word out in December that we were going to do this ride in February. We intended to have riders park in Montgomery, be transported with bikes to Selma and pedal back. Simple, right? Who would want to go on a 50 mile ride in February? We thought MAYBE 20 people would take the bait and do it. We agreed with Jeff Feet that we SHOULD do the ride regardless. The events we were remembering were worth it. Getting cycling noticed in the community was worth it. Attracting a more diverse ridership was worth it. It just took doing it. The ride became possible in practical terms when Robert and Bonnie Traphan threw in with us. They are the club Treasurer and Secretary and they put on the annual supported club century ride in the Fall, our Glassner Autumn Challenge. (check it out! http://www.mgmbikeclub.org/autumnchallenge.html ). They knew the nuts and bolts of doing a ride. Jeff Periatt, a marketing professor, enlisted his classes to do marketing items for the ride as practical real world applications of what they were studying. Jeff also was sucked into the whirlpool of trying to arrange the right amount of transportation resources for a moving target number of riders.
In the end, we had over 350 cyclists pedaling and 85+ volunteers and others providing support. That the course was made tough by headwinds and the riders had to work hard seemed to heighten the sense of following in the footsteps of marchers who did not have it cushy either.Other than the wind, the weather was cooperative for the one day it needed to be. There were some glitches and behind the scenes rough spots, which are action points for any future endeavors of this sort. Overall though, the riders felt satisfaction with the ride, the history, the event and what we were doing there. Coastal Progressives might not understand how things are done in "Flyover Country" but the riders sure did. This ride was put on by a small group of white people who felt like they should do something to bridge a racial divide in a way that they could. To that extent, it was successful. Already, we have had black volunteers who want to help to do this again. That alone will improve our perspective greatly. We found that cycling IS more than just going for a pedal. It can be a basis for broader relationship. Before we were insulated on highways in our cars, everyone rode a bike. In fact, the first roads paved were done so for bikes, not for cars, which hadn't come along in any great numbers yet. Insulation is the enemy of camaraderie.
We had a white mayor and a black mayor both welcome the group and invite them to see their fair cities. None of the other elected officials we invited came. Only one, Congresswoman Roby, replied to the invite. Well, her staff did with a "thanks but the schedule is full." We heard that the governor was out of town, nothing about any others. Cycling has a way to go before it shows up on the radar as a "thing" to most people. The potential is there though. Can you see it?
This was a great thing for me personally to be a part of. Goes back to some events of my own childhood that I had forgotten about until they came bubbling up, unbidden. Our team worked long and hard and we still made some mistakes. But we can't let that stop us from moving ahead. We wondered at first how much of the club's money we might lose if no one showed up for this ride. It turned out to be a sell out and we will present a sizable check to the event beneficiary, The Dexter-King Parsonage Museum. we also will make smaller donations to five other causes, including the BRAG (youth cycling) Dream Team. The club made no money on the ride, but we did not lose any either.
We present a report on the event to the Montgomery City Council soon. Our riders made an economic impact to the area. If the city will have a more cycling friendly place, more cyclists will come here and that is good for business. The more drivers expect to see cyclists, the safer it is for cyclists. Think space for cycling in transportation planning, bike racks near points of interest, and so on.
The first ever state wide bike conference is in Montgomery next month. Another sign of progress.
Rather than post pictures and stories here, I'll point the reader to our hashtag (my first one ever!) #selma50ride. You can find articles in at least 4 newspapers, Bicyling.com, Facebook, etc.
I'm looking forward to riding this weekend. Are you?
Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.
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