PORTLAND, Ore. — The feeling of freedom on two wheels sends Keyonda McQuarters back to her childhood. It is why she loves to ride her bicycle.
“There’s something about when I get on a bike, I do become, like, 8 years old all over again,” McQuarters said.
“It’s always been so freeing for me,” she said.
McQuarters is sharing that joy with her community.
“Black Girls Do Bike has sheroes and I am the shero for the Portland chapter,” she said.
She leads the local chapter of Black Girls Do Bike. It is a national organization that creates opportunities for Black women in the sport.
“I think the events of this year have definitely shown us the importance of being intentional and really creating space,” McQuarters said. “When you see yourself represented, you’re more likely to do, more likely to show up, more likely to even dive a little deeper.”
She organizes group rides around the Rose City, which are open to all women at all experience levels.
“If a ride is not beginner-friendly and then some beginners come, it becomes beginner-friendly,” she said. “Because we never want anyone to feel left out or feel unsafe or not feel welcome.”
McQuarters joined the group about five years ago after moving to Portland from Chicago with her family.
“I wanted to bike more and my family was like, ‘Listen enough already. It’s a fun activity, but we don’t have to do it every day and we don’t have to do it for miles.’ And I’m like, OK. So, then I said, I’ve got to find more people to bike with.”
Initially, she found a group ride online but didn’t feel welcome.
“I ended up not going on that ride actually, for several reasons. Some of it was what I felt from the group, but also, some of it was my own uncertainties,” she said. “I just have to say this to be so candid, it's unfortunate the certain spaces have been designated for certain people.”
That feeling, she says, can reiterate the sense that this sport is not for you. That this space is not for you.
Black Girls Do Bike wants to change that, giving riders a chance to recapture childhood, or experience that freedom for the first time as an adult.
“That’s a message that maybe society has done, maybe it’s intentional or unintentional, but you need to know that you have every right to be in this space. You have every right to take up space here. There’s no such thing as this sport is for this and this sport is for them. Right? It’s whatever your interests are,” McQuarters said.