‘Brown Bike Girl’ in Portland to offer anti-bias seminar

Courtney Williams
(From her website)

Courtney Williams wants cycling advocates to change on the inside before working to change what’s outside.

Williams, a bicycle advocacy consultant who lives in Brooklyn, New York and is also known as The Brown Bike Girl, wants more organizers and community leaders in the cycling space to think not just about bike lanes, but whether or not their own biases and privilege prevent people from influencing projects and policies that relate directly to the institutional and physical barriers they face while getting from place to place.

Williams will host, Outside Advocate: Anti-Bias, Anti-Privilege Seminar, on Saturday (1/25) at The Street Trust headquarters in northwest Portland.

While here, Williams said via email this week that she wants to, “Help the Greater Portland bike community begin to work through eliminating some of the repetitive racial faux pas and internal biases that have been a roadblock to unification of diverse communities over time.”


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In fall 2018 Williams spoke on the topic of racial justice and equitable infrastructure planning at the North American Bike Share Association conference in Portland and sees Saturday’s event as a continuation of that conversation. According to Williams, “The impact of providing or withholding bike lanes and bike share stations [from certain people in certain neighborhoods] plays into either normalizing or criminalizing the sight of people of color on bikes — and therefore leads to disproportionate and unnecessary interactions with police that frequently lead to other long-term life complications.”

“Making people into one-dimensional characters for the sake of leverage is tokenism.”
— Courtney Williams

The idea of “freedom of movement for every set of neighbors and neighborhoods” is central to Williams’ approach and she wants to help organizations, “Make an institutional practice of examining all the factors that may enhance or impede that right.”

Asked via email this week for an example of a common mistake organizations make, Williams said tokenism is a big one. “Often times, organizations that seek to be more inclusive latch on to the idea that ‘representation matters’ (and it does) and begin to integrate images of target groups of color into their marketing,” she said. “They then congratulate themselves on their diversity work without having achieved any measurable outcomes.” Instead of making real changes, Williams sees tokenism as, “Making people into one-dimensional characters for the sake of leverage.” During her seminar she’ll lead a discussion about how to navigate the nuances of representation.

Williams is a member of the 2020 Filmed by Bike jury and connected with The Street Trust to add the seminar to her visit to Portland. Registration for Saturday’s class is closed, but you can email Williams at [email protected] to fill remaining spots and/or be on the cancellation list.

Learn more about the event here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and [email protected]
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