Michelle Cook has her knees to thank for her love affair with bicycling. After she had to give up running due to a knee injury, a friend suggested she try riding a bike for exercise. Before long, Michelle was hooked and riding her bike everywhere she needed to go. Bicycling was an antidote to anxiety, boosting her mental health while also helping her lose weight. But she couldn’t help but notice -- where were all the other brown and black bikers in Boston?
As a seasoned fitness professional and general go-getter (she founded Operation B Fit in 2013 to provide boot camp classes and other free and low-cost options for people of color to have positive exercise experiences), Michelle wanted to create a space where other people of color could connect and ride. Roxbury Rides, the community program she founded, hosts group rides, and partners with other organizations and community groups to expand access to biking in and around Roxbury.
In 2017, Michelle jumped in to help lead our 10-mile Tour de Streets ride after our anticipated ride leader broke his foot. "My main goal was to not leave anyone behind and to make sure everyone was having a good time," she said. "If people have a good time, they’re more likely to get on a bike again with positive associations." As a member of the Boston Bike Queens team, Michelle enjoyed the smiles, great attitudes, and beautiful weather at Tour de Streets.
Michelle thinks that the most important conversations to be having about streets right now are Safe Routes to Schools, bike infrastructure and gentrification, and something she’s coined multi-modal “positive advocacy”. “To get someone to understand your needs, you need to understand their needs.”
Right now Michelle is busy designing a Historic Roxbury bike tour, and gearing up for her #31DaysofBikeStyle challenge in August: “People think they need to look or feel a certain way to ride a bike. They don’t understand that they can wear regular clothes or even dress up. I bike in heels sometimes. I don’t recommend it, but I can’t help myself!”
Join or donate to Michelle's Team today!
Join the #31DaysofBikeStyle Challenge: https://www.facebook.com/events/2028682127460999/
Read Michelle’s blog “Bikenista in the City”
Follow Michelle on Twitter @roxburyrides
(Photos: TDM Photography)