“The bike is nothing more than a symbol. It’s about mobility. Biking puts you in a community while other forms take you through the community and you miss the nuance and the energy of the people,” said Anthony Taylor.
Last week Taylor led a group of bike riders on a “Slow Roll Tour” of South Minneapolis starting at Sabathani Community Center, where organizers related a bit of its rich history. The tour even took a detour at the MSR where Taylor told riders of the newspaper’s origins and the necessity of having a vehicle that could tell their stories and advocate for them.
The 90-minute ride exposed riders to other trailblazers and change-makers that helped form and shape the Black community in Minneapolis. Taylor himself has been riding bicycles for as long as most people acquainted with him in the Twin Cities can remember. And few can remember a time when he didn’t play bicycle evangelist, encouraging folks to take up riding, even offering free bikes.
Taylor is an avid outdoor enthusiast, a cofounder of Major Taylor Bicycling, and the founder of “Slow Roll Twin Cities” in cooperation with the Culture Wellness Center. According to the bike enthusiast, Major Taylor Bicycling got its name and inspiration from Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, a professional cyclist hailed as America’s first great Black celebrity athlete, who was well known in the earlier part of the last century.
The bike ride “Biking Through History and For Your Health” was organized as part of TPT’s Racism Unveiled series. The series seeks to tell stories about the Black experience with racism in the U.S. through the eyes of its victims.
According to Taylor, Slow Roll is less about the bikes and more about the connection of individuals to community and others. “It happens on a human scale,” said Taylor. “Slow Roll is a bike ride not for cyclists, but for regular people to discover their neighborhoods. We make it an event that happens on a bike instead of making it a bike event.
“The magic of biking is the amount of territory you can cover in an hour. Geography opens up,” explained Taylor. “Biking breaks down barriers. On a bike, we cross boundaries, we see how our neighborhoods are connected. Connectivity is what matters, and mobility is the ultimate expression of personal freedom.
“If we can get Communities of Color to lead the charge for more opportunities to ride, for more bike infrastructure where they live, we build ownership and agency. We begin to change history,” Taylor said.
“If we get people started biking, we can expand the conversation to talk about how Communities of Color are connected to green space, the outdoors, to health, and to activities that promote living well.”
As founder of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota (a local chapter in a national network), Taylor invites folks to experience the world on a bicycle and to push themselves. “Major Taylor is designed to expand cycling opportunities for African Americans,” said Taylor.