Little Known Black History of Blacks in Biking

It’s February and that means it’s Black History Month! This month, I’d like to highlight a few little known black history facts about blacks in biking.

“Bicyclists’ group on Minerva Terrace. [Lt. James A. Moss’s company of 25th Infantry, U. S. Army Bicycle Corps, from Fort Missoula, Montana.] YNP.”
October 7, 1896.

Buffalo Soldier Bob Marley’s song Buffalo Soldier is not just a great sing-along song with a wonderful bridge-Woe! Yoe! Yo!  It is a song that tells a story about the 25th Infantry United States Army Bicycle Corps. The theory is the name was given to them by Native Americans because their hair felt like a buffalo’s pelt. The name was embraced by the soldiers because they were familiar with the buffalo’s bravery and fighting spirit. The soldiers were one of the many segregated units of the U.S. Army. They were testing if bicycles could replace horses in the military. Their biggest test came when they rode 1900 miles from Ft. Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. They averaged 56 miles a day and completed the trip in 34 days. To learn more about the Buffalo Soldiers contribution to the U.S. Army, check out the book Iron Riders: Story of the 1890s Fort Missoula Buffalo Soldiers Bicycle Corps” by George Niels Sorensen (Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 2000) Vélocipede + Tricycle In 1888, Mathew A. Cherry invented and received the patent for the vélocipede. The vélocipede was a metal seat with frame set on top of two or three wheels. This design was a big improvement over previous designs. The rider would propel themselves along with their feet on the ground in a fast walking or running motion. This design eventually evolved into the bicycle and tricycle. In May 1888, Cherry received the patent for the tricycle. In the U.S., the tricycle is used mostly by children. However, in Asia and Africa, it’s used for commercial deliveries and transportation.

Picture courtesy of patentpending.blogs.com

Panniers One of the things that makes biking a great form of transportation is the ability to carry stuff. In 1899, Jerry M. Certain created the first bicycle parcel carriers, designed to carry items via bike. Today, we call these parcel carriers panniers and they are essential to many riders who use bicycles for transportation and travel. These are just little facts about African-American contributions to making bicycling better and accessible for all. Think about that the next time you load up your pannier for a ride!

Do you think Bike Month is rad?

bicyclingisradbetter

Yes, I think Bike Month is rad

Yeah it is. Bike Month is super rad. Can you lend a hand for just an hour and a half after work this week to help us hang some posters around town?

Yes, I’ll help spread the word

WABA staff will be leading teams of volunteers in a few neighborhoods to hit all the business, restaurants, shops, bars, coffee spots, and stores that we can from 6:00-7:30pm to hang up posters and fliers on Wednesday May 4th and Thursday May 5th. Sign up or learn more at waba.org/spreadtheword. Want to earn a free WABA membership? If you volunteer with WABA three times in a year, you get a free membership! Want to earn a spot in WABA’s famous 50 States Ride this September (the ride that everyone loves and that sells out in 36 hours)? We will randomly pick one volunteer who helps us out this Wed or Thurs to get a free registration!

Yes, I want free entry for WABA’s 50 States Ride!

WABA hopes you have a very happy Bike Month. We’ll see you out there in a bike lane or protected cycle track. Have any questions about volunteering? Email volunteer@waba.org.