Adonia Lugo’s resume is a veritable list of the most ground-breaking campaigns to bridge bicycling and social justice. As a co-founder of the City of Lights initiative (now Multicultural Communities for Mobility), CicLAvia, Bicicultures and the Seattle Bike Justice Project, Lugo is a leading voice and on-the-ground innovator in building a more inclusive movement.
Last month, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lugo penned a powerful and provocative piece — “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy and Bicycling: How Do We Build a Coalition for Bicycle Justice?” — that explores the necessity and complexity of uniting the goals of the bicycle and social justice movements. Still inspired by her call to action, we couldn’t be more excited to have Lugo’s perspective on the League’s new Equity Advisory Council — and as a speaker at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum.
I grew up in a town where the Latino families on my side of the railroad tracks were seen as a menace by white residents on the other side, who pulled nearly all the white children out of the local school. When I joined students from the other local elementary school in junior high, a girl informed me that I had attended “the Mexican school.” It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that her parents may have been using a term left over from the era of segregated schools in Orange County. When I was a child, I used to watch white recreational cyclists ride past my family’s apartment, using our neighborhood as a connector between regional bike paths. When I got involved in the bike movement in Los Angeles in September 2008, I started hearing advocates talk about being “second-class citizens” on car-dominated streets. I was struck by the irony of hearing white men and women use that term. I wondered how many of them were the products of our society’s informal segregation, where Americans arrange themselves in suburban enclaves according to race and income.
… The burden is on the bike movement to show how our goals are not different from the goals of social justice movements. We want all people to benefit from bicycling. Good for the body, good for the city, good for the planet. But it’s hard to show this when we get dismissed as a selfish group of gentrifiers. We need to work together to confront the inequality that our cities are reproducing by using bike infrastructure as a means to raise property values and push out the poor. Too many American children grow up in isolation from other ways of life, and it is not hard to see how this might affect our ability to understand each other as adults.
… We need a human infrastructure to connect our divided communities. We need bike advocates to go to neighborhood groups and come to a consensus about livability, not as outsiders imposing on longstanding communities from outside, but as engaged leaders in the shift we must make to a cleaner future. Inspired by the work of Dr. King and all the people who have heeded his call, we can bring just conditions of social equality to our country, our streets, and our planet. But we have to work together…
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.