Over the course of several hours on a sunny fall afternoon at Park(ing) Day in Atlanta, Courtney Williams, founder of and Chief Strategist for The Brown Bike Girl, engaged dozens of people of all ages who were curious about the orange e-scooters and new e-bikes they have been seeing in their neighborhoods.
Williams, who is a certified cycling instructor through the League of American Bicyclists, was engaging with folks about safe bike and scooter riding. She was demonstrating helmet safety, including how to address concerns people had about how helmets interact with their hair, navigating varying pavement conditions and bike lanes, and answering concerns they had about policing.
The event in Atlanta, followed by another in D.C., was part of a collaborative initiative between Spin and Williams called “Safety for All by Spin x The Brown Bike Girl,” designed to address the most common riding concerns among Black and Brown riders.
Spin partnered with Williams as part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our approach to equity. We recognize that while making sure new micromobility is available in all neighborhoods is a start, we must also pair it with concerted outreach efforts that address the very real concerns of the communities we hope to serve. Many of the obstacles that Black and Brown communities face to cycling are also obstacles to adopting micromobility. Unless we understand the cultural, historical, and political context, we can’t begin to engage historically underserved communities meaningfully.
That is one of the underlying principles of Williams’ activism. This initiative is built on the foundation that Williams has laid over her years of working to teach safety and empowerment to Black and Brown riders while also working to dismantle institutional racism within urban planning and cycling activism.
Williams' work has been more than individual rider outreach and rider empowerment. As an "advocacy consulting" agency, The Brown Bike Girl works with companies and organizations to help those institutions create more inclusive and equitable cultures and outreach methods. The initial two events, in Atlanta and in D.C., were just the beginning. These events were also an opportunity for Williams to demonstrate how Spin employees and partners can better integrate more inclusive outreach methods, which she has spent years developing.
As part of the Safety for All initiative, Williams is creating an external guide that will help deepen Spin’s approach to more equitable and inclusive rider outreach. We also worked with her to produce a series of short videos highlighting important safety tips.
Capacity building is a priority for Williams, who occupies a unique space in the cycling advocacy world.
“I find myself being the one person, the one Black woman, having these conversations,” she said. “There are more riders these days, but they are not brought up in a culture of empowerment.”
She hopes that her work will help create more space for people like her to continue the work.
“My ultimate goal with The Brown Bike Girl: more people of color who want to carry the torch of anti-racism in transportation and urban planning,” she said.