A San Diego woman whose love for bicycling started decades ago found there weren't a lot of people like her on the road, so she joined up with a group of bicyclists, who have something in common: They're also women of color.
Spend any time in Mission Bay and you’re likely see this group on another one of their group rides .
Denice Williams has been cycling for more than 30 years. It’s safe to say, she knows her way around.
“This is like a joy of mine, it’s like a passion," Williams told NBC 7. "Anybody that knows me knows that I'm probably on my bike somewhere."
Willliams told NBC 7 that, as a Black woman, she also knows what it’s like to be the only one who looks like her on the road, which is why she says she was thrilled to see Black Girls Do Bike come along.
The organization began as a local bike group put together by a Pittsburgh cyclist in 2013. Since then, it has grown to be a national organization with more than 90 chapters, including one in San Diego, which Williams heads up.
"Why did I become involved?" Williams said. "Lets … because, Black girls do bike, and it needs to be known, and it’s not just Black girls -- it’s women of color."
Over the past six years, the organization has created a space for women of color to connect, advise and, ultimately, share the joy of cycling. While the group has a special emphasis on women of color, it’s open to all women.
"It’s almost like learning how to bike all over again," Debra Portee said.
Portee, a new member, got involved when she needed an alternative to running.
"I haven’t been on a bike since I was about 8 years old, so this was definitely a great experience for me to start," Portee said.
But it’s not just the exercise that drew Portee in, she said. It was also being out on the road with other women who look like her.
"I know that it says Black Girls Do Bike, and I know, like, there’s sort of a a stigma -- that people do think that Black women and Black -- pretty much Black women -- do not exercise, and, yes, we do," Portee said. "We definitely want to show that we care about our health just as much as anyone else."
La Donna Parham found the group while she was looking for a diversion from being shut in during the pandemic.
"When I saw that, I was like, 'Oh there’s people who look like me cycling and getting out there,' which I’ve never seen," Parham said. "That really drew me in to the women, and then once I got out there and I was like, 'Wait, we’re out here, we’re here.' From there, I just was like, 'I'm in.' "
And they are out there, pushing each other on two wheels into the greater cycling community, letting everyone know that black girls do, indeed, bike.
"There’s also this club that gives you that opportunity to, you know, be in the presence of other women, women that look like you and feel comfortable and know that, 'Hey, I don’t have to be in tiptop shape, I don’t have to look a certain way to ride the bike, I don’t have to have a certain bike,' you know, and that’s ok, I’m ok,' " Williams said. " 'I’m gonna be accepted and they’re gonna ride with me, and I’m gonna have a good time.' "