Photo Essay: a “Fresh Air” Inauguration Day Ride with Peace Peloton
In April, the Peace Peloton will bring its message of “economic reform for Black people” to the cycling community in Washington, D.C., with a ride to Black-owned businesses in the nation’s capital. We joined the socially distant “Fresh Air” ride in Seattle on Jan. 20 to pedal with friends, ogle the cool bikes, and breathe the winds of hope and change.

It was billed as an Inauguration Day “Fresh Air” ride, a chance to watch the historic events in Washington, D.C. as our nation’s first woman and first person of Black and South Asian heritage was sworn in as vice president, and then take a casual, 10-mile spin with the Peace Peloton from Seattle’s Pioneer Square to the Central District to support Black-owned businesses.

Wearing masks and warm clothing, people began gathering at 8 a.m. in a narrow alley outside the entrance to Back Alley Bike Repair, where an outdoor screen had been erected to broadcast the inauguration. 

Held on a chilly weekday morning, the gathering was small by design to avoid crowding. About 30 people showed up--parents with children, a dog, seniors, and riders of many colors, ages and abilities, all riding a motley assortment of bikes. 

The mood was solemn, subdued and respectful as the inauguration was broadcast live. The owner of Boon Boona, a locally owned coffee roaster that sells beans grown in Africa, and whose owner is of Eritrean descent, sold coffee by the pound.

With a mission of economic reform for Black people, and a goal of supporting businesses owned by people of color, Peace Peloton co-founder Reginald “Doc” Wilson told the small crowd about the organization’s new initiatives: 

  • a business catalyst program to help entrepreneurs of color;

  • monthly open-air Makers Market events in Columbia City and Yesler Terrace, where the Peace Peloton’s Black-owned business partners and creators of color can sell their products;

  • a “Passport” booklet that allows people to collect stamps and win Peace Peloton swag  when patronizing Black-owned businesses. 

“We all must come together in unity to advance the aims of this program and other programs like it,” Wilson said through a microphone. “Continue to come out, continue to tell your friends about this organization, continue to recruit other people, continue to tell your places of business about us. We want to be that presence that unites this community and helps bring change.”

In an article in Seattle Met magazine, Wilson discussed Peace Peloton's use of bikes and community bike rides as an organizing principle. “The major difference between us and any other economic development firm is [that] we use the bicycle as the tool to get people excited about what we’re doing.”

Then it was time to ride. Designated ride leaders gave a safety speech and urged everyone to be cautious. The destination was Communion, a new Black-owned restaurant on Union Street in Seattle’s Central District. 

Doc grabs some photos of the start for his Instagram account, @peace_peloton.

Faster riders pedaled ahead and blocked intersections to allow the peloton--defined as a group of people on bikes who all benefit through the mutual aid of drafting--to pass through safely. The pace was leisurely, the mood cathartic following a challenging 2020. Riders conversed in muffled tones through masks while riding. Strangers became friends. 

The diversity of bikes was fun to see. Some people rode electric bikes and cargo bikes, others pedaled road bikes, touring rigs and commuter bikes. Many bikes and backs were adorned with Peace Peloton signs. People in cars waved in support, and ride leaders kept the pace slow and the group together, with experienced bicyclists taking up the rear to ensure nobody was dropped, and others clearing the way.

We rode along the waterfront on Alaska Way, headed through the Seattle Center past the Space Needle, then pedaled through downtown and uphill toward Capitol Hill, passing through the woods along Interlaken Drive, and following a low-traffic route down neighborhood greenways to Communion, where individuals lined up six feet apart to purchase from a pre-set takeout menu.

Maimoona Rahim, Cascade's advocacy & volunteer coordinator, represented. 

On April 10, Wilson and Peace Peloton supporters will travel to Washington, D.C. to organize a “fresh air” ride to Black-owned businesses in the nation’s capital. Wilson hopes to organize a ride in Baltimore the following weekend. The pandemic has made it difficult to organize events and expand to other cities, but Wilson is talking with supporters in Portland, New Orleans, Miami and other locations about putting on “fresh air” rides when circumstances allow.

Cascade supports the Peace Peloton’s mission of economic reform for Black people, its mantra of “access, community and fun,” and the initiatives underway within the bike industry and wider cycling community to diversify bicycling--and use bikes as a tool to advance racial equity.  

Visit peacepeloton.org to learn how to participate, donate or support its Partner Businesses program. Read the story about Wilson and Peace Peloton in Seattle Met. 

Paul Tolmé's picture
Paul Tolmé