This is my response to an incident that took place on October 21st during the Tour of the Latino Family ride; where some of our riders were verbally harassed by two white middle-aged individuals while we were riding on the Capital City Trail (parallel with John Nolen Dr.), with the excuse that our group of 35+ riders was too large and/or too slow.
What happened during our Tour of the Latino Family is a reminder that Madison trails are not yet safe or inclusive, where everybody can walk or ride freely without the fear of being verbally harassed just because people are going too slow. Last week, I met with an 82-year old man who does not longer ride his bike because he does not want to be a bother to other bikers and is afraid of using the trails.
Since when the Madison trails became property of the fast biker or the fast walker/runner? If they have a trail-title that makes them the owners of these shared spaces, I want to see it. The last time I checked, trails belong to everybody. Trails are shared spaces for everybody in our community: kids, youth, parents, grandparents, seniors, whites, people of color, poor, rich, Ironmen, crossfitters, etc. Everybody. People can go as slow as they need to and want to on the trails. We, the Madison community, have the obligation to stand against those individuals who are out there harassing people. We need to make sure that no member of our community stops using the trails out of fear.
I wish my statement ended here, but unfortunately what happened during this ride has triggered other concerns. The Tour of the Latino Family was an organized ride with the purpose of introducing members of the Latino community to the beautiful Madison trail system.
I wish I was certain that these verbal assaults were not racially motivated. A group of over 30 riders mostly brown stands out anywhere in Madison, but in particular in our bike trails. We looked very different from the groups of riders that usually ride the Madison trail system. I wonder if these individuals would have done the same to a group of white middle class riders? I believe that looking different made us an easier target. I am very certain they thought we were not going to understand when they called one of our female riders a b@#&h. What privilege these two individuals felt they had to freely harass our riders? This is outrageous and has to stop.
What happened during the ride is a reminder that our Latino community is still very vulnerable in this city, and an easy target. It is a reminder that some segments of Madison believe that we do not belong here, that we do not belong in the Madison trails. This is a reminder that some in the Madison community have become accepting of us, as long as we stay in the Mexican restaurants making delicious tacos for Taco Tuesday celebrations. We are breaking the norm and will continue breaking it. We will continue riding, so be prepared to see more of us on the trails. We are putting the color on the Madison trails, which they so desperately need.
As a Latino and one of the organizers of this ride, I can assure you that we are not going to take this type of verbal assault against any members of our communities. I denounce this type of behavior and demand respect for every type of rider and walker.
We invite you to stand against this type of verbal harassment and support our community of riders. This is not going to stop the Tour of the Latino Family rides. We will continue riding. We invite you to join our rides. No matter what type of rider you are. No matter if you are old, young, fast, slow, brown, black, white. We will make sure you have a place in our VERY SLOW ride.
If you are ready to stand against this type of verbal harassment towards our communities, join us on Saturday November 18 at 10 am (in the Olin Park parking lot in Madison, WI) for the third Slow Tour of the Latino Family – We Are Not Afraid of Riding Ride. With this ride, we will show the Madison community that we are not afraid of riding. With this ride, we look to make a statement to the Madison community that we do belong here and that trails are for everybody: kids, youth, parents, grandparents, seniors, whites, people of color, poor, rich, Ironmen, crossfitters, etc. Everybody.