DAMASCUS, Md. — For Adina Crawford and Suzanne Webb, an afternoon spent on their bicycles is more than just a bike ride.
“Everybody’s friendly; they’re open,” Webb said. “It’s a real family, real community.”
The duo is part of the cycling group Black Girls Do Bike.
“I’ve been cycling for a long time,” Crawford said. “More women of color are coming out to ride for the sense of enjoyment, fellowship, connection and learning and growth.”
It wasn’t always that way. Cycling, like some other sports, still struggles with diversity. Black Girls Do Bike wants to shift gears.
“Their goal is to get more women of color on the bike, right?” Crawford said, “And to get them more engaged in a community where they're familiar with and people that look like them that they're familiar with.”
It’s a familiarity people are looking for now, more than ever, since the pandemic began. According to a study published in the journal Nature, when the pandemic started, 82% of people in the U.S. reduced their daily interactions with others. That number gradually declined during the country’s first (74%), second (68%) and third (60%) surges of COVID-19.
“I think part of socializing and socialization is people who are like-minded flock together,” said Hedwig Lee, a sociology professor and co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Equity at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. “So, we know the term ‘birds of a feather flock together,' I think it's definitely reflected in how people interact.”
Lee said people from similar backgrounds often come together because of shared adversity.
“In certain kinds of social settings, they have been not always accessible to African Americans and biking is one example,” Lee said. “In those cases, I think it's really important for people to see other people who look like them, to feel comfortable, to feel welcome in those spaces.”
The pandemic limited those spaces for everyone, isolating people in ways they’re only just starting to roll out from under.
“The fact that there are women like me out riding and saying, ‘Hey, you know, if you need help, I’m here to help you change a tire,’ it’s just a real community,” Webb said.
Crawford sees the benefits of that, too.
“It’s important to share your story, your experience, your downfalls, your uphills, all of those things to share, so to let the person know that's coming in, they're not alone,” Crawford said.
It’s a way to stand together, as they ride on their journeys.