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Oregon Bicycle Racing Association wants to increase participation of Black riders


(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.”

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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 chawkins@obra.org.

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 jonathan@bikeportland.org
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