Out & Back: Pedaling for change with cyclist Doc Wilson

Alison Mariella Désir rides through Seattle with the founder of Peace Peloton, an organization that promotes cycling as a tool of social justice for Black communities.

Reginald “Doc” Wilson has relied on his bike for a lot of things. It is how he gets around – his only means of transportation for 10 years now. It provides him with a kind of therapy; he says that when he rides, he feels the embrace from his bike. And it has been a means of adventure; Wilson once spent six months in Southeast Asia, just him and his bike. 

So after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Wilson naturally turned to his bicycle as a tool of protest.

With just three days to plan, Doc organized what would be the first ride, on June 6, 2020, of what is now known as Peace Peloton, a nonprofit organization that uses collective action on bikes to bring economic justice to Black-owned businesses. The Peace Peloton community is inclusive in a way that most biking organizations are not; the rides center fun and are taken at a slow pace to welcome newbies and longtime riders alike. The goal is to limit the “intimidation factor” that often faces new riders trying road cycling for the first time.

I met Doc Wilson in July 2020, just as the organization was getting started. He is electric, loud, warm and intentional. I knew immediately that we would be not only friends but collaborators. He has an ability to make you feel welcome and have a good time with anyone, even those, like me, who are terrified of cycling.  

Now in its second year, Peace Peloton has expanded programming to include three initiatives – Fresh Air Rides; Night Markets; and Barbecue, Bikes and Beer – all of which drive economic reform through partnerships with small and Black-owned businesses in the Seattle area; owners are invited to speak to ride participants about their work.

Peace Peloton is also expanding its reach nationally, with a tour of Fresh Air rides this summer in Minneapolis; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Oakland, California; and Los Angeles. Each community ride will start and end at a business or local institution that is Black-owned or has Black leadership. In Wilson’s words, “Seattle can’t hold Peace Peloton,” and he has his sights set on making a deep impact through collaborative, fun, welcoming rides across the United States.

For more from this episode, listen to the Out & Back podcast. You can find it on SpotifyApple Podcasts, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts.

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