Bike for Change

Of cycling and suffrage

Do It

What: 100 Miles for 100 Years of Suffrage

Where: Throughout Whatcom County


WHEN: Through Sept. 30

Cost: $15-$30

Info: http://www.letsshiftgears.com

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

As the summer of 2020 is teaching us, even a global pandemic won’t stop Americans from rallying against this country’s many inequities—preferably with a mask covering their mouth and nose, hand sanitizer at the ready and a handmade sign pointing the way to the changes they want to see.

If you’re one of the countless brave souls that has been taking to the streets lately to demand that it’s way past time to pay attention to the ongoing horrors that centuries of systemic racism has wrought upon the populace of the United States, please know that your efforts are not in vain. People are paying attention, even if they’re currently unable to join the latest protest at City Hall or travel to Seattle to take part in a silent march with 60,000 other humans.

It’s still possible to make a difference from the comfort of your living room, but if you’re looking for a way to mix activism with athleticism in a socially distanced manner, consider signing up for “100 Miles for 100 Years of Suffrage.” The program being offered by Shifting Gears and the Washington Historical Society celebrates the 100th year of the suffrage movement for white women and the power of the bicycle to enact change, and urges cyclists to ride a mile for every year of the suffragist movement from now through Sept. 30.

According to a recent press release, the bicycle is being used as a metaphor for moving forward, and the event is meant to honor and commemorate achievements of suffragists who, in 1920, made it possible for white women to vote via the ratifying of the 19th Amendment. Unfortunately, black women and other women of color wouldn’t gain the right to take part in the political process until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed nearly a half-century later.

That last fact is something to give serious thought to when you’re on solo rides during the 100-mile challenge, or as a topic to discuss when you’re cruising with members of your quarantine pod on familiar roads or routes that are new to you—or both. It’s serious subject matter, but if it can help you understand more about why the Black Lives Matter movement’s time has come, it’ll be well worth the effort.

“One hundred miles is a lot of ground to cover,” Shifting Gears’ board member Taylor Sinason notes. “Participants can take the challenge on their own, or join as a team. You don’t have to ride 100 miles in one day—you can work toward your goal over a period of time. The idea is to encourage all people to get outside of their comfort zone in a way that is challenging yet supportive and reminds people that the fight for equity is ongoing.”

For every 10 miles a participant rides, they will receive a card paying homage to past and current suffragists from Washington state and draw attention to change-makers such as Susan B. Anthony, who was pivotal in moving the women’s suffrage movement forward—and who was also of the opinion that bicycles were much more than a means of conveyance; they were also a two-wheeled method of liberation.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” Anthony once said. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel—the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

While you’re exercising your own right to ride—and vote—remember to recreate responsibly by keeping physical distance from others, wearing a mask when passing other cyclists or runners and, when possible, only recreate with people from the same household.

A $15 entry free includes the inspirational cards, access to Shifting Gear’s private club on Ride with GPS, as well as entry to a Facebook group where you’ll have access to suggested routes, opportunities to share rides with other participants, and ideas to motivate your fellow riders. For an extra $15, you can also add a T-shirt commemorating your support of the suffrage movement, Shifting Gears, and your riding achievement.

You’ll have all summer to complete the ride, and can get started at any time. Maybe by the time you’ve picked up your 10th card and read more about the powerful women and allies who came before you, you’ll feel more motivated to head to the next protest at City Hall.

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