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New ‘Friends on Bikes’ group wants to create a warm welcome for women of color

Posted by on March 6th, 2017 at 11:20 am

Posts from the Friends of Bikes Instagram feed (top) and a motif from their website.

One reason Portland’s vaunted bike culture keeps growing and evolving is because new people arrive in town, look at the local cycling landscape, and feel like something’s missing. Then they set out to create it.

That’s the story of how Molly Sugar and Gritchelle Fallesgon started Friends on Bikes.

They both recently moved from major cities (New York and San Francisco respectively) and saw a marked lack of diversity in Portland’s bike lanes. Friends on Bikes is their response. They want to help foster, “a community of women of color who ride bikes in Portland.”

To get started they’ll lead an inaugural Welcome Ride on March 19th. The event will include features very common to Portlanders — like a roll along the Columbia via Marine Drive and lots of donuts. But some features won’t be common: The people on bikes will will look decidedly different.

Molly was born in Seoul, Korea (and raised in Maryland). While attending college in Richmond, Virgina, she started riding bikes with her friends. The fact that they were all Asian made the riding that much sweeter (it also inspired the name Friends on Bikes, or F.O.B.). “Without them I don’t know if I would have loved cycling as much as I do now,” Molly shared with us via email over the weekend.

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“It wasn’t a shock in how white and male Portland’s bike scene was because that’s how it is everywhere. But since Portland is labeled as the bike haven of America, we were surprised there were not more options for people of color.”
— Molly Sugar, F.O.B. co-founder

When Molly got to Portland she immediately noticed a lack of diversity in the bike scene. “It wasn’t a shock in how white and male Portland’s bike scene was because that’s how it is everywhere,” she shared. “But since Portland is labeled as the bike haven of America, we were surprised there were not more options for people of color.”

She added that for people of color, being part of a community is vital. “Especially in today’s political climate.”

Molly and Gritchelle (who is Filipina) want to help others have the same positive experience with cycling they’ve had.

To do it they’ve hatched a three-part plan. First are the rides planned this coming year — from beginner-friendly routes to gravel rides and even an overnighter (both women like longer, adventure rides). Second; they plan to highlight people of color who are “doing great things for the cycling community”. The interviews will be posted in the Minority Report column on their website and broadcast to their social media channels.

The third leg of the plan is to support local cycling nonprofits that support women of color. F.O.B. will look to donate, collaborate, and provide volunteer support. Their first project in this regard is to donate half the proceeds from sales of a topical zine from their online store. (You can check out the zine, Biking Across America, at Gladys Bikes on Alberta.)

“In the end,” Molly says, “We just want to see more women of color get rad on bikes! We need to have rad women that young girls can look up too. We don’t see enough of that in general.”

RSVP for the ride and stay in touch with F.O.B. at FriendsonBikes.com, Meetup, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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daisy
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daisy

Way to go Molly and Gritchelle! This news is making me all warm and fuzzy. Best of luck!

Phil Richman
Subscriber

This is great! Looking forward to watching it grow!

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

“Especially in today’s political climate.”

What does this have to do with riding your bike?

Steve B.
Guest
Steve B.

Very cool!

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

very cool, many often complain that new transplants move to town and drive up rents, clog the roads with their automobiles and fail to add to the Portland cultural Mileu. But here we have two women who move to town and jump right in to the bike community and immedietly make it better by working to improve its shortcomings ( lack of diversity). two thumbs up.

Rebecca Hamilton
Guest
Rebecca Hamilton

Donuts (and bikes)… Is there anything they can’t do?

Welcome to town and best wishes for a successful kickoff ride.

Adam
Subscriber

Awesome. 😀

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I’m torn between being disheartened at yet more Balkanization of cycling (what next, rides for left-handed people with attached ear-lobes?) and welcoming any and all efforts to get more folks out on bikes.

The latter emotion wins again, but some day I’m going to get too churlish for that to be the case. Meanwhile, ride on and right on.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Totally had to look up “non-binary”…

daisy
Guest
daisy

Bicycling as a “community” (sorry, JM!) can be notoriously sexist and unfriendly to women. Yes, there are some fantastic, friendly bike shops, but the success of woman-focused-but-open-to-all Gladys Bikes attests to the demand for explicitly-woman-friendly cycling experiences.

I imagine folks of color might have similar experiences. Next time you go to a local bike race, look around for people of color. There aren’t so many, and it’s nice to have friends.

Folks who are concerned about “Balkanization” (really?!) are likely not part of minorities within cycling.

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

Not big on the oriental imagery. I guess maybe it’s an effort to reclaim, or whatever, but as an Asian woman myself, I would just like to be seen as a person riding a bike, not an exotic geisha-costumed creature.

granny gear
Guest
granny gear

I had to google “non-binary” just to understand the ad.

Smokey Bear
Guest
Smokey Bear

Are there any cycling clubs in Portland? I’d be surprised if there weren’t. Something like the Mazamas for climbing/hiking/snowshoeing/skiing etc?
http://mazamas.org/

You might even start a cycling group within the Mazamas.

There is the Chemeketans:
http://www.chemeketans.org/who_we_are.asp
They do have bike trips.

Hopefully these groups don’t evaluate a person based on spectral emissions from their surface. That is getting old.

Elly
Guest

I’m stoked that this group exists. Rock on, folks.

Bobthebiker
Guest
Bobthebiker

I know this is trivial to whole program but I just wish they did not have a sign that has the word “friends” at the top and then the word “bikes” upside down. There is too much of that going on already.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Hey, just curious: is using the geishas cultural appropriation?

daisy
Guest
daisy

Many of the commentss on this thread are an excellent example of why women of color might prefer to cycle with others like themselves.

daisy
Guest
daisy

For folks who are criticizing this group: when was the last time you invited a woman to cycle with you? Or a man of color? Or a woman of color? Or a non-straight person?

Pete
Guest
Pete
Wait...
Guest
Wait...

I was surprised. It was too bad Molly grew up in the East Coast, and went to the college in the South.
Molly, if you were born in Korea you should be proud to be a Korean. If you’re naturalized already, then maybe a Korean American.
I guess people can decide on how they like to be called, but what they might categorize you may not describe how you’re actually are.
By calling random people (?) “colored” you’re telling that you’re the kind of person who segregate people based on their race. It sounds sooo violent.
Why did they use the picture of Japanese women in Kimono, by the way?