Creating a Cultural Shift

Posted by Doug Shidell, July 2nd, 2012

Philip Vang and his buddies love mountain biking, but wished they weren’t the only Hmong riders on the trails. This past weekend they started doing something about it. They rented booth space at the annual Hmong Sports Celebration in Como Park. With the help of Cycles for Change, they set up a simple mountain bike course on a small hill. They added easy obstacles using free wood from Craigslist, printed flyers and spread out a laminated version of the Twin Cities Bike Map on a table.

They waited. Fifty thousand Hmong came to the festival this year. They came from across the country, from France and from Laos. They came for flag football, soccer, the giant marketplace, the beauty contest and the chance to be part of the largest gathering of Hmong people in the world. It’s safe to say they did not come to test-ride mountain bikes.

“This morning the guys in the tent next to us just looked. They were wondering what we were doing riding up and down the hill.” Mr. Vang told me. Finally, he took a flyer over to them and explained mountain biking. Eventually the guys gave it a try. Later a group of young women rode the course, then tried the road bike on a trainer. By mid-afternoon about 25 people had ridden one of the bikes. If the pattern held through the weekend, Mr. Vang and his riding buddies reached 100 people. Some will joint them for an easy ride around the Salem Hills course next week.

It’s a small but realistic start. Some people dream big, and do nothing. Mr. Vang and his friends started where they could. The numbers will grow. At some point bicyclists will notice. They will speculate about the cause. I already know.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News