Peace Peloton Expands to Tacoma and Gains National Prominence
Founded in Seattle to support the Black Lives Matter movement, the Peace Peloton rides co-created by Reginald “Doc” Wilson are expanding to Tacoma on Aug. 9, gaining national attention, and uniting people on bikes to support economic reform and racial justice for Black people.

On a drizly Saturday morning prior to the start of a Peace Peloton ride, prominent Seattle-area health care expert and avid bicyclist John Vassall told a story about the worst bike crash of his life. It was a poignant anecdote that summed up the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, and how the cycling community can help. 

As he lay in the road in pain, two bicyclists, complete strangers, carried Vassall, a Black man, to safety and helped him get to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken femur. 

Imagine if, Vassall told the crowd of several hundred people on bikes who had gathered for the ride in support of Black-owned businesses, the hospital doctors had dismissed his broken femur by saying that he has 205 other bones in his body, and that “all bones matter.” Of course all bones are important, he said in a critique of those who try to delegitimize the BLM movement by saying that "all lives matter," but it's the femur that is broken and needs attention. 

The message was clear: now is the time for white bicyclists to step up, focus, and help heal the pain.

Founded in early June with a message of economic reform for Black people, the Peace Peloton rides, which start and end at Black-owned businesses and feature speakers who talk about issues facing communities of color, have steadily grown in stature and attracted national and international attention. 

Now, the ride is expanding to another city. On Aug. 9, organizers will hold the first Peace Peloton ride in Tacoma, Wash., starting and ending in People's Park.

 

For Wilson, who has worked tirelessly with a growing cadre of volunteer supporters, the expansion to Tacoma is the first step toward creating a national Peace Peloton movement. 

The past few months have been a whirlwind for Wilson, a longtime bicyclist, life coach and skilled public speaker. He has filed paperwork to create a 501c3 nonprofit, which would allow donors to make tax-deductible donations, and is awaiting approval from the Internal Revenue Service. He is negotiating with potential ride organizers in London, New York City, Los Angeles and other cities to create more Peace Peloton rides. He worked with creatives to make an inspirational Peace Peloton video, and in late June he was interviewed on the influential Outspoken Cyclist Podcast. He has trademarked Peace Peloton and is trying to raise $10,000 to support the organization’s growth and fund apprenticeships and internships at Black owned businesses. All this while maintaining his day job.

“I want to do this right and expand in a manner that sustains so we don’t splinter and fizzle out,” says Wilson, who recently received a team racing bike donated by a pro cycling team that he plans to auction off to raise money.

Relying on a growing number of volunteers, Wilson is an active presence at the Peace Peloton rides, wielding a megaphone to organize and inspire the crowd, urging everyone to maintain social distance and wear masks. Participants are encouraged to bring cash to purchase pre-boxed food items from the Black-owned restaurants and stores--providing a direct cash infusion to businesses struggling during the pandemic.

The July 25 Peace Peloton convenes at 10 a.m. at The Station coffee shop in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood and ends at the Maple Wood Playfield, where food trucks owned by Black entrepreneurs will offer a variety of foods for sale. The scheduled speaker is Seattle Municipal Court Judge Faye Chess, who will speak about “The Intersection of Economics and the Criminal Justice System for Black Americans.”

The rides are inspirational, friendly and supportive of families and people of all cycling abilities, with some participants in spandex, others wearing costumes or street clothes or Major Taylor Project jerseys, and with bikes adorned with Peace Peloton and BLM signs.

During rides, which typically cover about 10 miles on routes that mostly follow neighborhood greenways and use streets with bike lanes, Wilson shouts encouragement and relies on volunteers who ride ahead to block side streets to allow the processions of 300 or more people on bikes to safely pass through intersections. 

As a participant in multiple Peace Peloton rides, I have enjoyed the opportunity to engage with a diverse crowd of people on bikes. On the June 27 ride where Vassall spoke, I rode alongside the physician as he pedaled down Lake Washington Boulevard, which the city had closed to car traffic as part of its Keep it Moving program to give people more space to safely bike, walk and roll. 

Vassall and I spoke about his work as CEO of the Foundation for Health Care Quality, a Seattle nonprofit that tries to improve health care outcomes for patients and instill best practices in medicine--work that seems especially vital during the pandemic. Vassall rode on a titanium bike, which he joked matches the titanium rods in his femur.

Cascade fully supports the mission of Peace Peloton and is working with Wilson to help him raise awareness for the initiative. Multiple Cascade staffers and members have turned out to support the rides and spend money at Black-owned businesses. 

Prior to the July 11 Peace Peloton, Wilson wielded a megaphone and led the crowd in a chant of “Roll, roll, roll, Peace Peloton!” before concluding his remarks with a message for everyone in attendance: Persevere. 

“If I have anything to do with it,” he says, “this movement is going to have a long and significant lifetime.”

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Paul Tolmé