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A difficult post to write

Madison Bikes is a bike advocacy organization, and I was scheduled to write one of our weekly posts “about all things bike in Madison.” But on a day like today, I find it difficult to care and write much about this city meeting or that “open street.” (we’ll still have a weekly update tomorrow). I’m full of grief and anger. The following is a personal post and not a Madison Bikes position statement.

In Minneapolis, a city not far from Madison, police officers killed a black man, George Floyd. And George Floyd’s death is only one in an unbearably long list of Black people killed by police. And let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen in Madison. In 2015 a Madison Police Department officer killed Tony Robinson, an unarmed black teenager.

What does this have to do with bikes? Madison Bikes has a vision of a city where anyone can bike conveniently and comfortably to any place in the city. But who is that “anyone”? “Convenient and comfortable” for whom? Is a “protected bike lane” or an “open street” truly protected or open for people for Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) — like Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while out for a run? Is Vision Zero, the idea to eliminate all serious injuries and fatalities in the transportation system, worthwhile if it relies on police enforcement, which has been shown again and again to be racially biased, and too often ends up with a BIPOC person dead or arrested?

I grapple with these and similar questions a lot, in my personal activism, my role as a member of the city’s Transportation Commission, and of course in my role as president of Madison Bikes. And part of finding answers is to try to listen to and learn from those for whom these questions are less abstract than me. No matter how uncomfortable that may be. In that spirit, I will share some recent writings.

Our Streets Minneapolis (formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition) issued this “Statement on George Floyd, white supremacy, and our work.”

Confronting Power and Privilege” by Tamika Butler (Director of Equity and Inclusion at Toole Design)

How do we make sure open streets are truly open for everyone” by Courtney Cobbs of Streetsblog Chicago

A Tale of Two Truths: Transportation and in the Time of COVID-19” by Ariel Ward

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights” by Professor Gretchen Sorin (there’s also podcast episode about the book)