A History of Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club
In the summer of 2004, Mario C. Browne, Project Director and Stephen M. Thomas, (then Director) for of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Minority Health (CMH) and Kenny Pratt, a local Barber began leisurely Sunday afternoon bicycle rides in the East End of Pittsburgh. At that same time, CMH was developing community-based interventions to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities of chronic, preventable disease among African American and other racial minorities in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
Forming a Bicycle Club
While working on the “Healthy Black Family Project”, bicycling proved many benefits to reducing health risks and forming a bicycle club would facilitate a way to organize activities and create a social support network for the community. In July 2004, Mario Browne, Stephen Thomas, William E. Snyder, Jr., Kenny Pratt, Darrell Williams, and Tim Younger; a.k.a “The Core Six” formed the Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club (PMTCC) dedicated to bringing the joy and health benefits of recreational cycling to Pittsburgh’s inner city urban neighborhoods.
The cycling club was named after African American Cyclist, Marshall “Major” Taylor, a turn of the century world cycling champion who broke and set multiple racing records, while fighting racial prejudice and overcoming boundaries in the US in the early- 1900s, despite the discrimination and treatment he received on the cycling track. The use of Major Taylor as the club icon and namesake was intentional to create a culturally tailored health promotion intervention.
The birth of PMTCC was actually a local endeavor of a broader, national campaign. CMH was in the process of working with Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) out of Missoula, Montana to develop the Underground Railroad (UGRR) Bicycle Route, a representation of routes used by former slaves in the Deep South traveling North seeking freedom from slavery. Simultaneous efforts of planning nationally and acting locally ensued, and CMH in partnership with ACA were well on their way to building momentum and relevance in the cycling community. The projects enabled both organizations to bring their expertise together in creating the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route and the Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club.
The Core Six
In May 2005, urban training rides were organized on both Pittsburgh’s flat and hilly terrain to prepare for the annual Pedal Pittsburgh ride. Bill Snyder introduced the group to Pittsburgh’s bicycle trails expanding their rides to the city’s North Shore, Western Pennsylvania’s Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and Three River’s Heritage Trail. In October 2005 “The Core Six” took a lunch break at a local restaurant along in West Newton while riding along the GAP rail trail. During the lunch break they discussed plans for furthering developing their cycling club and sketched on a napkin plans for creating club officers and bylaws. Since that time, the club has expanded from six to its 75 members and now operates as a 501(c) (3). In May 2007, Mario Browne, Stephen Thomas, and 20 other riders from across the country and one from Japan, rode the 2,007.5 mile Underground Railroad Bicycle route from Mobile, Alabama to Owen Sound, Canada.
Mario C. Browne, Co- founder and First PMTCC President continues to be a club member and serve as PMTCC President Emeritus. Three primary club initiatives created under Mario’s leadership are community service, youth outreach, and community partnerships.
These initiatives include several week-long cycling and camping trips for inner-city youth on the Greenway Sojourns with Rails-to-Trails conservancy, charity cycling events such as the leukemia and Lymphoma Society “Race to Anyplace”, and environmental stewardship projects with corporate partner and sponsor REI, Inc. The club has received several grants to purchase and giveaway bikes to youth, and Mario has and continues to serve as a Board Member and Advisor to several cycling and pedestrian advocacy organizations, both locally and nationally.
Effective leadership matters, and former first Vice-president and current President, Bruce H. Woods, a member since 2007, continues to promote cycling to the youth of minority diverse areas of Pittsburgh by providing free bicycles and education programs to the area’s youth who maintain scholastic achievement in their schoolwork. In addition, workshops on bicycle instuction and safety are held annually to promote cycling to novice riders along with the education on the health benefits of cycling in the Pittsburgh communities. The PMTCC continues to expand the club’s membership along with providing education on the benefits of cycling and promoting a healthy lifestyle. PMTCC is one of Pittsburgh’s most respected cycling clubs, organizes group “no drop” road and trail rides through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. PMTCC participates in Pittsburgh’s local bicycling events and fund raising activities: such as, the American Lung Association’s annual Air Climb, MS 150 Bicycle Tour, and the American Diabetes Association’s Cure de Tour among other events.
Shared Vision for Promoting Cycling and Healthy Lifestyle
The PMTCC is a member of the National Brotherhood of Cyclist (NBC). The NBC, also led by President, Bruce Woods, holds an annual summer conference that look s at several topics, including offsetting the burden of chronic disease in any community and promoting cycling through h programs that provide opportunities for adults and youth to participate in recreational and competitive cycling. These programs are developed through member clubs of the NBC providing funding to its youth programs in support of young athletes who otherwise would not have the opportunity or financial resources to cycle competitively or recreationally. For more information, go to http://www.thenbc.org/primary-links/welcome-national-brotherhood-cyclists.html.