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


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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