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Dorothy Le Joins Equity Council
Last January, an email from someone named Hamzat Sani landed in my inbox. The message invited me to join something called an “Equity Advisory Council” at the League of American Bicyclists. I’m a joiner, so I accepted, and made travel plans to attend an in-person meeting with the nine other council members the day before the National Bike Summit in March.
That Sunday morning in March, I got to know some people who had been thinking together for a few years as United Cycling Voices, some who had been riding in community together as Red, Bike and Green, some who were part of the National Brotherhood of Cyclists network, and some others like me who had been working largely independently on what we were calling “equity.”
Equity is a concept that focuses our attention on the end results of advocacy work: what are we doing to ensure equitable outcomes? When our federal dollars go into public infrastructure projects like cycle tracks, do they serve as many people as possible? Are the people influencing decisions about bicycling at city halls across America connecting with Major Taylor clubs, with community bike shops, with people who ride because it’s all they can afford?
In our first meeting, we started defining what we would do as the EAC. Now, almost a year later, the original EAC largely intact, we’ve just gone through a process to select a new member. We set up an application and put out a call for nominations in December, and over 45 bike advocates submitted their names. By the time we closed the application on January 10, 20 of those folks had taken the time to engage with our questions and give us an overview of their own work.
I learned some things from the applications I reviewed. Applicants pointed out that we haven’t presented a shared definition of privilege and we haven’t taken on accessibility issues. I heard from leaders in rural areas; I heard from people who have worked for years in their cities to improve bicycling for everyone.
I also learned a lot about the EAC, since we often get to know ourselves better when we get to know others. The Equity Advisory Council is one of several similar bodies providing guidance to League staff, but it also functions as an activist think tank where we combine the individual experiences of each council member to draw out bigger themes.
Through our monthly phone calls, we innovate messaging to articulate and address the problems we face as bike advocates who “take for granted our ability to code shift,” as EAC member Brian Drayton has put it. We’ve had to become cross-cultural experts because we live between the bike movement and other communities, inspired bothby our love of bicycling and by a civil rights legacy of leadership. As the EAC, we’re using that shared experience to inform best practices for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the bike movement.
What the 20 excellent applicants reminded me is that we’re not the only ones doing this work, and one advisory body is too small to contain all this energy. Each applicant offered a unique skill set that I could see augmenting the EAC in a different way, and I aim to follow through on those possibilities with other projects.
With that said, I’m pleased to announce that Dorothy Le has agreed to join the Equity Advisory Council. Dorothy is currently a Senior Transportation Planner at Rutgers University, where she is working to create a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly campus. She holds her Masters in City and Regional Planning from the Bloustein School, was the Planning and Policy Director for Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and is involved in a number of bike-ped advocacy organizations, including the Biking Public Project, which aims to expand local cycling advocacy discussions by reaching out to underrepresented bicyclists around New York City including women, people of color, and delivery cyclists.
Dorothy will be at our third in-person meeting, again on the Sunday before the Summit, but a few EAC members have already collaborated with her on bike projects. She was one of the first bike advocates I met in Los Angeles in 2008, and I worked closely with her, Allison Mannos, and Andy Rodriguez on the City of Lights/Ciudad de Luces project at LACBC that became Multicultural Communities for Mobility. Dorothy will also be part of a discussion at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum this year about crossing over between movements and building coalitions.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, re-emphasized recently that the country’s largest public health foundation aims to build a “culture of health.” In a culture of health, she writes, “Americans understand that we are all in this together.” Equity in the bike movement means getting the benefits of bicycling to more people; it also means connecting our bicycle projects to larger struggles for health and equal access to opportunity. The EAC will keep innovating ways to help more people cross those divides we bridge, and I am very pleased to welcome Dorothy to the table.
Photo of Dorothy by Dmitry Gudkov.