underground railroad bike route

May 10, 2007 at 5:31 pm | Posted in Black Folks, Cycling, environment, Health & Healing | 3 Comments

“throughout history, black people have used bicycles as a mode of transportation. today we must promote physical activity within the cultural context of african american history, including the struggle to freedom from slavery. the underground railroad bicycle route demonstrates how to use cultural tailoring designed to get people moving.” dr. stephen b. thomas, cmh director and professor of community health & social justice at the univ. of pittsburgh graduate school of public health.

once a clandestine path travelled under the cloak of nightfall and whose details were ingeniously encoded in song, can now be physically (re)traced and (re)appreciated in the context of fitness, historical reflection, and courage. the underground railroad bicycle route is a 2,058 mile historic trail stretching from mobile bay on the gulf of mexico to the great lakes in ontario with the mission to “promote lifelong health…to people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.” this landmark mapping project began over 3 years ago as a joint venture between the adventure cycling association and the university of pittsburg’s center for minority health of pennsylvania.

because of the trail’s length and plethera of historic sites (ft erie’s bertie hall, st. catherine’s museum), cyclists can choose short segments or tackle the entire trail. on april 14, the adventure cycling association sponsored 18 cyclists on a 50 mi a day, 48-day road trip ending in buffalo. but its not too late to be apart of this historic event. The final leg, a 7-day ride open to 80 riders, will start on july 30th and end on aug 3rd connecting buffalo to owen sound. the closing of this inaguaral 2100 mile trip will coincide with owen sound’s 145th emancipation festival. owen sound’s particular significance is that of a emotional site of relief and freedom, as for many passengers who journeyed the “rail” to escape america’s peculiar institution.

“the challenge to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities requires implementation of interventions that are scientifically sound and culturally appropriate,” dr. thomas

the owen sound site also is the gateway to north america’s rich african-canadian heritage – a “living” story spliced from the classroom and many discourses on the african diaspora. for more african canadian resources check out these site: historic black canadians,afrotoronto,book references,afua cooper,and a fellow wordpress blogger with interesting sources.

ah yes…and what would a historic ride of this caliber be without a commemorative jersey (can be purchased here). in efforts to celebrate and spread the word, the adventure cycling assoc. encourages people to form groups, plan and register their ride on their website. there are several organizations who are currently considering creating a ride on this trail. for more details contact the pittsburg major taylor cycling club and look on the adventure cycling rider forum. if you are bold enough to meet up the riders, here are the segments:

Mobile, AL to Owen Sound, ON (2,057.5 mi.)

1st leg: Fulton, MS to Owensboro, KY (466 mi.)

2nd leg: Owensboro, KY to Milford, OH (394 mi.)

3rd leg: Milford, OH to Erie, PA(416 mi.)

4th leg: Erie, PA to Owen Sound, ON (380 mi.)

if you think this is hard and are deterred by the distance, imagine traveling this route by foot at night fearing for your life. are you up for the health & fitness challenge and commroderie? will you ride for your freedom; liberate your health? contact a cycling club in your area to do a local segment of the ride this year or just ride with them. more info click here.

here is a map detailing the elevation of the route:



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  1. As always I appreciate the knowledge. A famished pupil I am, continue providing the sustenance.

  2. mad love twin, thanks for keeping up with the blog. i’ll do my best to post interesting t(h)ings.

  3. hey idetrorce,

    thanks thank you for taking the time out to read the post and comment. what part don’t you agree with? looking forward to talking more.

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