The two-day event is open to women and other underrepresented genders.
Cycling is growing in popularity in Arkansas, but not everyone feels welcome in that space. Bea Apple, program co-director of the inaugural Critical Mass Summit, says the cycling ecosystem needs to change in terms of its inclusivity.
“This is one of the ways that we’re doing that, by intentionally bringing a lot of different organizations together and women — who they don’t even consider themselves cyclists — to bring them to the table to help them understand why it’s important to be advocates in this space,” Apple says.
The Critical Mass Summit is a two-day event designed to empower and connect women and other underrepresented genders with the trails, cycling and active transportation community. This includes cis women, trans women, women of color, the nonbinary community and those who are otherwise marginalized.
The summit, which includes virtual and in-person events July 23-24, is hosted by BikeNWA, NWA Trailblazers and Bike.POC, which was founded by Apple and Kim Seay, Critical Mass program co-director.
From a young age, Seay loved cycling and while there were no soft surface trails when she moved to Northwest Arkansas in the mid-90s, Seay still got outside to ride. As more mountain bike trails have been constructed in the region, she’s explored those, but often is the only African American riding on them.
“I felt like the sole female and the only person of color on the trails with a lot of dudes,” she says. “I just kept on riding and it didn’t deter me from riding because it was so fun.”
Seay later met Apple whom she taught to ride and in early 2020, they launched Bike.POC to diversify the region’s cycling community. One of their dreams is “to ride bikes with lots of people of color,” Apple says.
“That’s because we know how much it’s done for us personally and so we want to create this community where people who look like us and who normally haven’t felt safe or included or were intimidated by the sport, we just wanted to create a safe space for that,” she says.
While several bike-related organizations are hosting the Critical Mass Summit, the event is about more than cycling and will address issues such as social change. Some of Friday’s sessions will include how to engage effectively with elected officials, building inclusive spaces and cultivating resilience to avoid burnout. Guest speakers will give attendees “tools to educate their community and empower at the local level because we know that that’s where the direct change is made,” Seay says.
The goal of the summit is to educate women working in different spaces on the importance of advocacy around infrastructure, active transportation safety, pedestrian and trail infrastructure, and provide attendees with direction on how to take action, Apple says. Additionally, the summit is helping bring together people who’ve typically not had a seat at the table when it comes to deciding where infrastructure goes.
“We want you there because we know that we all need to be giving input on how our communities are built to make sure that they’re serving us,” Apple says.
The inaugural Critical Mass Summit is July 23-24. Friday’s events are virtual and on Saturday, attendees can choose in-person activities like riding bikes, hiking or rock climbing. Registration and more information is available at www.criticalmasssummit.com.