Dustin is an 18-year-old bike advocate in Washington, D.C. He leads a monthly social ride called the Colors of Cycling, every first Friday. He most recently won the Washington Area Bicyclist Association Community Organizer Award. He works to get people from all walks of life outside and using the trail systems.
Why is getting outside important?
Being outdoors gives people time to clear their minds. With the current climate, outside sees no political lines or affiliations. It doesn’t matter who you support, everyone is the same when they’re enjoying the trails in the great outdoors.
Outside is my favorite place to be—hence why I love REI.
What does outside mean in an urban environment like D.C.?
I’m one of those weird people who loves the city so much that I love ambient street noise, the sound of the bus outside the window of my apartment. I love urban cycling, the rush of wind the cars make as they drive by.
In D.C. we have so many outdoor monuments, parks and memorials. Whether looking at the monuments or the museums at the National Mall, you have to be outside to enjoy them. D.C. is one of those towns where whether you like being outdoors or not, it is going to force you outside.
I’m one of the National Park Service proponents. You already paid for the trails, parks, museums, so come and use them.
How did you get involved in the cycling community?
I’ve always ridden bicycles, but a couple years ago my friend moved here from New York and started social rides. He noticed that a lot of the bike groups and cyclists were cliquey, so he started events to bring them together. The social aspect and activism drew me in.
Now, I can’t go five blocks without waving to someone biking the opposite way. Over the past two to three years, my core group of friends and acquaintances has morphed into people who ride bikes and who are in advocacy groups. It’s pretty neat. I don’t want to say it takes over your life, but it’s tight-knit. If you see someone having mechanical issues, you genuinely want to stop and help them. The overall camaraderie is my favorite part of the biking scene.
What makes you a bike advocate and why is advocacy important?
Biking in D.C. has been around for a long time, but the percentage of people that are starting to bike is growing by the week, especially with the subway system not being as reliable, congestion on the roads and the rising population. Advocacy is important because it’s showing people how to ride and how to feel comfortable riding in town. Advocacy has done a lot to promote biking in the city and show the environmental affect—cutting down on smog and pollution.
Who inspired you to get outside?
My father. My dad has a lot to do with my love of sports as a kid. That’s where it all started, in terms of getting outside. I’m one of those kids that went outside from sun up to sun down. Riding bikes, street hockey—my dad and I have a certain bond when it comes to athletic stuff.
In whom are you fostering a love for the outdoors?
I promote events that make everyone feel comfortable. A lot of the large groups riding around have aggressive jerseys with expensive carbon frames. People think it’s a cliquey, elitist thing. We want to eradicate that. It’s not about having the flashiest bike or being part of a competitive team. We want everyone to feel comfortable—from 9-5 business folks, women, transgender people, men—whether it’s your first time, or you want a large group to help you improve. That’s the person I try to inspire.
What is your favorite piece of gear and what’s the story behind it?
I don’t leave home without my speaker. I’d forget my shoes before I forget that thing. Having tunes or podcasts is relaxing and helps pass the time during your ride. And it pulls double duty because cars can hear you coming.
What does being an REI Co-op member mean to you?
I love REI. There is a pride aspect in the fact that they opened a flagship store here, right in the center of the city. It’s such a historical building; it’s cool to see what they’ve done with it.
It’s a store that I love to support. I like to support a company that supports you, and they’ve shown they want to invest in a crown jewel right here in D.C.