Our Tomorrow: Meet the Seattle cyclist pedaling toward economic equity

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The mission behind Doc Wilson’s weekly Peace Peloton rides boils down to five words: Economic reform for Black people. Every weekend, he’s leading hundreds of cyclists on rides between Black-owned businesses in Seattle.

An avid cyclist, Doc says he’s working hard to create an environment that’s inviting to everyone: commuters, casual riders, parents with kids in trailers, skateboarders, unicyclists — basically anyone on a non-motorized vehicle. Don’t ride (or skate)? The Peace Peloton also needs volunteers to help with logistics, drive support vehicles, and do behind-the-scenes tasks, like marketing.

“That back office stuff is important,” Doc said. “Those unseen heroes who make everything come together are awesome.”

Ready to get involved? Drop your contact information here, or show up to the next ride

We recently caught up with Doc to hear how he came up with the idea for the Peace Peloton and get his thoughts on economic justice, diversity in cycling, and more. The following excerpts have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

What inspired you to take action?

Doc: My superpower is bringing people together. It’s going to talk to John and introducing John to Mary, and then introducing Mary and John to a bigger group, and just having those communities grow. 

I love cycling. I’ve taken my bike over to Southeast Asia and toured around for four months. I commute to work every day. I’m on a bicycle all the time, so I wanted to align my passion with my purpose, and this is the result of that. 

Everybody has their own superpower. I’m just using the tools and the passions that I have to advance this aim. I thought, “Hey, if I’m going to do this, it has to be sustainable. And what in my life have I sustained?” I’ve sustained my business, I’ve sustained riding a bicycle every day. So why don’t we merge those two? And out comes Peace Peloton. 

 

What’s your advice to other folks who are trying to figure out how best to apply their own superpowers?

Doc: Just start. As a life coach, my guidance for people who come to me with similar questions is often “well, do more than nothing.” People who try to model their skills or their superpowers or their engagement solely around what other people are doing are going to fall short. 

With Peace Peloton, not everyone has to ride a bike. The support can be on the ground. My girlfriend is an attorney, and she’s helping with bringing the application for our trademark together. I’ve got other people working on the website. I’ve got other people working on figuring out which businesses we should visit.

Everybody can’t grab the microphone and be on stage — that’s not everyone’s superpower. But everybody has their part, and there’s absolutely no way I could do all of this myself.

 

How do the rides contribute to economic equity?

Doc: The vision is to introduce individuals who otherwise wouldn’t know about these Black businesses to the Black businesses. That is economic reform. People are taking money out of their pockets and giving it to these businesses in exchange for their goods and services, and they’re becoming aware of a business that they probably wouldn’t otherwise know.

Along with riding to businesses, we’re following routes through areas of African American significance in the city. Our first ride, we stopped at the Northwest African American Museum. There are also places in the city that are significant for redlining, and where the first Black settlers came to the city.

We want to make sure that we stay true to the (mission of) economic reform for Black people. The byproduct of that is getting people on bicycles and advancing a healthy lifestyle, and bringing community together.

 

What’s the next step in economic reform for Black people in Seattle? Is there a way to go deeper? 

Doc: When I’m talking to my white friends — or white people, period — I tell them, well first of all, educate yourself. Understand that Black people have been frustrated for a while. Now all of a sudden, you want to do something. Was there nothing to do before? What’s motivating your moves now? Educate yourself, and don’t assign us the responsibility of educating you.

People should vote, and make sure your vote is aligned with your values and life mission. Take the opportunity to speak to your representatives and demand that you get something from your vote. 

People should be who they are. It’s OK to be uncomfortable. Channel that energy into something positive. 

Examine your company’s hiring practices and ask questions. There are a lot of large corporations — Starbucks, Microsoft, and the like — who are launching or have launched diversity and inclusion programs. Question that: Why did you feel you needed this? What are the outcomes? How is this affecting me? What can I do?

People should flex their adaptability muscle. I don’t think that whole “normal” thing that people keep talking about is coming back. We’re trying to reach back to the safety of the shore now that we’re adrift. A better approach would be to set sail for new destinations. Let’s explore, and let’s grow. 

 

Seattle’s cycling community has a reputation of catering to mostly white, male riders. How do we make activities like riding bikes more inclusive?

Doc: I can go all the way back to my time in Washington, D.C. I started out as a mountain biker, and then I transitioned to road cycling and really fell in love with it.

I wanted to ride with groups, and what I found was all of the group rides were these cyclists with $10,000 bikes, and all this gear, and they were all talking bike-speak. All I wanted to do was ride, so I launched an organization in D.C. called Saturday Cycle, where people would come out every Saturday morning. It didn’t matter who you were or what level of rider you were — everyone was welcome, and they were all no-drop rides.

So fast-forward to Peace Peloton. I’m employing the same strategies that I did for that group, because I saw the same things in Seattle. When I came here, the vast majority of the group rides I showed up to were full of 40-50 year old white men, and it just felt like people were being left out. So I wanted to use the type of language that was inviting to a broader audience, in particular people of color.

Yes, this can be an expensive sport, but if you want to be on a bicycle, we’re going to figure out a way to get you on a bicycle. That’s part of our goal: Everybody can ride. All of the rides we put together are all no-drop. No one gets left behind. If you get a flat tire, someone is designated to wait with you until your mechanical issues are repaired, and we all ride in together.

It is all inclusive — just no assholes. That’s the only restriction.

By Caitlin Moran
Caitlin writes newsletters and stories for The Evergrey. She's worked as a journalist in and around Seattle since 2010 and is a proud resident of Capitol Hill's Summit Slope neighborhood.