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Oregon Bicycle Racing Association wants to increase participation of Black riders

Posted by on June 17th, 2020 at 11:20 am

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, our state’s official sanctioning body for competitive cycling, knows it isn’t doing enough to support participation of Black, Indigenous and people of color. And they’ve taken a first step to do something about it.

In a statement shared with the group’s 4,500 members yesterday, OBRA Board of Director members Stacy Westbrook and Christy Hawkins wrote, “The events over the last few weeks have shone a spotlight on the systemic racism prevalent in our communities. OBRA recognizes that the cycling industry, and the sport of cycling, has contributed to this.”

“We continue to fall short of supporting this vision in our outreach and support of cycling with communities of color, specifically Black communities.”
— OBRA Board members

Westbrook and Hawkins then acknowledged that OBRA is not living up to its vision statement that “each and every person in the state of Oregon” has an opportunity to participate in bike racing. “We continue to fall short of supporting this vision in our outreach and support of cycling with communities of color, specifically Black communities,” they wrote.
The OBRA Board established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee earlier this year (a move that came after widespread outcry over the anti-transgender views of former board member Inga Thompson). The aim of that committee is to “explore ways to make the sport of cycling more accessible and accepting of communities that have historically been underserved by our organization and sport.”


Asked about the current racial breakdown of their membership, OBRA said they don’t have that data. Executive Director Chuck Kenlan said in an email to BikePortland that they conducted a demographic survey in 2017 but, “Unfortunately, it did not ask any questions about race.” The organization’s membership application also doesn’t ask for race/ethnicity information. “I think it is important information to have,” Kenlan shared.

Board member Christy Hawkins said she hopes the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will work on this and other issues once it gets up and running. “As we develop committee membership, listen to BIPOC members, and draft our charter, we’ll work with the community on developing an understanding of the needs of underserved cyclists in racing,” she said. “We know we have work to do to make OBRA an inviting and inclusive space for Black cyclists interested in racing.”

If you’re interested in joining this committee or have feedback or guidance to offer, contact Hawkins via email at

We invite you, our members and community members, to join the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee if you feel you can offer leadership, guidance, and ongoing support. We invite you to share your feedback, experiences, and ideas to help make bike racing in Oregon serve all of our communities.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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David Hampsten

Jonathan’s photo says it all – yet another predominantly white male organization recognizing, much too late, that it lacks any sort of meaningful diversity. It reminds me of various other clubs like Elks, the Republic Party, engineering associations, and the like who are also predominantly white and run by a mostly male executive committee. Nice try, but you might start with trying to get Major Taylor as your mascot rather than Lance.

Toby Keith
Toby Keith

Phonies. More white people trying to show just how “woke” they are.

Shimran George
Shimran George

Why not start with kids? It’s a little longer in the payoff, but at least you set roots for people to feel a love for a sport. A lot of adults I feel don’t try new things because they’re put in the same league as people who have had a lifetime to perfect their craft. Getting kids involved can help level the playing field for POCs; develop talent.

To that point: Perhaps setting up clinics in East Portland and North Portland for kids to learn the art of racing? They can use their own bikes, and as they determine their level of interest, they can upgrade components/bike as needed.

On the adult level, the problem with sports that require a good amount of money to get started, is that you feel like a fool as soon as you set foot (wearing basic clothes, having a substandard bike) in the space. It essentially becomes an exercise in class-shaming.

Help create a welcome culture where people can show up with a beach cruiser and cotton shirts not feel judged…as long as they’re learning the art and essene of racing, they’ll learn what works for them. Once people are hooked on a sport, spending money on something that gives them joy becomes less of a difficult decision.