15 January 2014

Freedom Rider

On this date in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born.   His birthdate will be commemorated on Monday, five days from now. We also observe the births of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, as well as other holidays, on Mondays in this country.

I guess if you want to become famous enough to have a holiday dedicated to you, you have to be born on Monday.  Or, perhaps, being born on Monday will lead you to fame.

But I digress.  I don't often hear or see MLK and bicycling mentioned on the same page, let alone the same sentence.  The biographies I've seen tell us that he enjoyed riding his bike as a kid but make no mention of him cycling as an adult.

From Dan's Globe Bike

So why am I mentioning him on this blog?  Well, I believe that my cycling is one major reason why I began to think about issues of social justice long before I would be affected by them in the immediate and visceral ways I would experience them when I was transitioning from male to female.  Riding my bike through New York--where I have lived much of my life--and other cities, I have seen, close-up, the stark differences between neighboring communities.  Just minutes after spinning by the opulent townhouses and boutiques of Manhattan's Fifth and Park Avenues--which rival Rodeo Drive, Kensington Gardens and l'Avenue Montaigne--I descend the ramp from the Triboro Bridge to the southern tip of the Bronx.  It's part of the 16th Congressional district, the poorest in the entire nation. There, I am as likely as not to be the only woman on a bicycle within a radius of several miles.

In both neighborhoods, people sometimes compliment the bike I'm riding, or (on rarer occasions these days) my riding itself.  In either neighborhood, I am keenly aware of my privilege:  Even if I am riding to work or an appointment, I am riding my bike by choice.  And I am riding a bike I choose to ride.  Even if I have no money in my purse, I still occupy a higher rung on the social--and, yes, economic--ladder then those who are riding bikes that no one else wanted so they can deliver pizzas or get to an appointment with a case worker.

As long as I can ride, and choose to do so, I am privileged.


  1. beautiful post justine :)
    would love to ride with you in NY and it from end to end, that manhattan disparity and be in the bronx. thanks for your words and visual descriptions.

  2. Meligrosa--Thank you. I know I could never truly do justice to MLK or what he has meant in my life. I did what I could in this post.

    I'd like to ride with you. too. Write me at justineisadream@gmail.com.