A national coalition of black cycling clubs is converging on the Twin Cities for five days to focus on creating more racial equity in bike riding and exploring the nationally renowned biking infrastructure of the Twin Cities.

The National Brotherhood of Cyclists opened its annual meetup Wednesday at the Commons Hotel in Minneapolis with sessions focused on using biking to combat health disparities among low-income and minority populations. Panelists are also discussing ways to make bike-sharing programs equitable and profitable, and using biking as a tool for social change.

The Twin Cities hosted the inaugural meeting of the brotherhood in 2009, the year after the organization was founded to promote a common agenda among more than 40 black-oriented local cycling clubs. Although those clubs largely comprise sport cyclists, another goal is to encourage more casual riders.

There's also a full schedule of bike rides on the conference agenda, plus cycling promotion. That began Wednesday with a tour of favorite Twin Cities biking routes led by Tim Springer, former director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition. The greenway was boosted by about $28 million in pilot federal funding aimed at increasing bike and pedestrian commuting.

The conference continued Thursday with sessions featuring black women's cycling, racial dynamics in bike advocacy and a session on gentrification titled "Are Bike Lanes White Lanes?"

That's an assertion that Anthony Taylor said he frequently hears. Taylor is a vice president of the brotherhood, a co-founder in 1999 of the Twin Cities Major Taylor Bicycling Club, and a member of the equity advisory council to the League of American Bicyclists.

One key to making those lanes more friendly to black riders will be to increase comfort with cycling, Taylor said. His club and the national organization are working to lure nonriders and novice riders in the black community toward more confident cycling that's integrated into daily routines.

Taylor said it's important to start with skills as basic as how to mount a bike and some basic maintenance. "You create a learning curve," he said.

Taylor plans to work with Major Taylor riders in the Twin Cities to foster conversationally paced community rides when he opens a bike shop in the Bancroft neighborhood. He said one key to encouraging participation is to show people how they can link neighborhood destinations on low-traffic streets.

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