On August 31, Bike East Bay celebrated the dropping of all charges against Rich City Rides founder Najari Smith, after he was arrested during a peaceful group ride organized by Black-led community cycling groups. Bike East Bay and dozens of people—representing a broad range of bike organizations, local bike shops, and social justice groups—joined Najari at a rally in front of the Wiley W. Manuel courthouse in Oakland. Najari reminded the crowd that dropping charges was just the beginning.
“The traumatic effects of police targeting black, brown, and poor people is a public health issue because it forces upon us a spiritual deficit that we never asked for or deserved,” Najari wrote in an email to the community. He asked the bike community to continue pushing for positive changes in the police system and police behavior.
Safe streets are more than just bike lanes, traffic calming and good sidewalks—all things Bike East Bay has been working on for a long time. Bike East Bay is now working closely with Red Bike & Green, the Scraper Bike Team and Rich City Rides to support effective policy change around group bike rides and bicycle programs and to mitigate racial bias in policing of people on bikes.
Police enforcement data from 2016 shows that Oakland Police disproportionately stop and arrest Black cyclists. Bike East Bay joins our community partners in demanding that the Oakland Police Department cease and desist in targeting black and brown communities for minor traffic violations, and to update its heavy-handed Crowd Management Policy to accommodate group bike rides.
In addition, long term funds are needed for Rich City Rides, Red Bike Green and The Scraper Bike Team to ensure their continued work providing positive opportunities for at-risk youth of color. Bike East Bay is now seeking to secure funding from regional transportation authorities and grant makers to enable even more people of color to get around our cities by bike.
Bike East Bay supports Najari and Rich City Rides, as well as our fiscally sponsored groups Red Bike & Green and the Scraper Bike Team who were also on the unity ride together, because Black lives matter and Black joy matters. We want to see more Black and people of color on bikes, without the fear of being stopped by the police for celebrating, being loud and being ourselves.
Photo by Malcolm Wallace