Ask people what they think of bikers, and you might get one of two well-worn answers: old stereotypes of scowling, leather-clad thugs, or adventuresome wanderers who just love the open road. The truth is, of course, a lot more complicated – the adventuring wanderer might be a banker from Monday to Friday, and the scowling, bearded man in leather riding with the rest of his buddies…well, he might be on the way to support an abused child who has to appear in court.
Giving Abused Children Confidence and Protection
Bikers Against Child Abuse is perhaps one of the best-known biker activist groups. Founded in 1995 by John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a biker who also happened to be a social worker and a play therapist. BACA bikers escort children to and from court appearances, providing a sense of safety for them when they have to see their abusers again, as well as escorting them to and from school and on errands if needed. Having one of those “scary bikers” as their own personal protector can make a huge difference for a kid who’s known no safety in their whole life.
BACA is only one of the groups combining their love for bikes with their passion for making the world a better place; around the world, there are many bikers, both alone and in groups, who ride for what they believe in. Bikers and activists might not seem like the most natural of bedfellows, but the same traits are important for both: a willingness to stand out from the crowd, to take a few risks, to explore things other people might ignore. There’s also always been a strong element of “family” among bikers, which can knit them together for greater cause.
Freeing the Whales
“Orcas want to be free, just like us bikers” – this might be the best way to sum up Bikers 4 Orcas, a international group of bikers who ride to raise awareness of orcas in captivity, with their goal being that all orcas are free to roam the ocean, just like they’re free to roam the open road.
In Lagos, Nigeria, female bikers aren’t a common sight – so whenever D’Angels, an all-female group of bikers, went out riding, they’d draw stares. So they thought that they could use all that attention for a cause. So they joined together with another group of female bikers, Amazon Motorcycle Club, and founded the Female Bikers Initiative, which provides free breast and cervical cancer scans to Nigerian women. As of May this year, 500 women have already been screened thanks to the Female Biker Initiative. They’re now putting on a week of awareness raising and mobile screening, riding to distribute fliers and to talk to women about the importance of screening – vital work in a country where half of the yearly cancer deaths are from breast and cervical cancer.
Then, of course, there are bikers who use their activist spirit to defend the rights, and promote the cause, of motorcycling and motorcyclists themselves. The Motorcycle Action Group founded in 1973, fights for freedom of choice and self-determination for bikers faced with restrictive laws, with “education, not legislation” as their mantra.
What about you?
Whether you ride for fun every now and then, or whether being a biker is your lifestyle, maybe there’s a place alongside these biker activists for you. Bikes, and bikers, will always turn heads: will you use that attention to make a statement?