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!

Kitty Litter Pannier Workshop

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Meet Kirby. He stopped by the Bike Ambassador’s tent last night at the National Night Out event and we got to talking about kitty litter panniers!

As you can see these containers are GREAT for hauling groceries from the store. If you’re interested in making your own kitty litter pannier, Bike Ambassadors are hosting a workshop on August 14th at WABA HQ (2599 Ontario Rd NW) at 6 pm. To register, or to find out more click here.

We are also requesting donations of empty kitty litter containers, as well as empty Costco laundry detergent containers. Anything helps! If you have any empty containers you’d like to get rid of, contact jon.gonzalez@waba.org