The Underground Railroad Bike Route

Photo left image credit: Lindsay Mangum, NPR. Photo right image credit:UGRR Pittsburgh Spur Section PITT SPUR Detail Image; from Adventure Cycling Association

BikePGH honors Black History Month 

The Underground Railroad Bike Route 

The journey along the Underground Railroad, the networked path to freedom for African-Americans enslaved before and during the Civil War, helped an estimated 100,000 enslaved people to reach freedom with the assistance of abolitionists. To teach, acknowledge and increase awareness of our history, another network, The Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (UGRR) has been developed.

The Underground Railroad Bike Route is 2006 miles long, starting from the Gulf of Mexico, where the last slave ships arrived in Mobile, Alabama, and ending in Ontario, Canada. The route follows the historic “Follow the Drinking Gourd” path as a guide. This cycling route was developed by the Center for Minority Health (CMH), which has now become Center for Health Equity (CHE), at the the University of Pittsburgh. It is noteworthy that BikePGH member Mario Browne, who was the Project Director for the CMH along with then CMH Director Dr. Stephen Thomas helped the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) to develop the UGRR. Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club (PMTCC) members, including BikePGH Board of Directors member Bruce Woods were the route planners from Pittsburgh to Erie.

Explore Pittsburgh’s important role in the Underground Railroad, as quoted from Adventure Cycling Association:

“Pittsburgh played a vital role in Underground Railroad history. Due to the many roads leading in and out of the area and the rivers which represented natural landmarks to follow to freedom, the city became an important stop for freedom seekers making their way north. It was also a strong hold for the abolitionist movement and Blacks themselves became active in securing the freedom for enslaved Africans.

The route begins at the Senator John Heinz History Center where travelers can view the Underground Railroad exhibit and African American collections before crossing the Allegheny River and following the 3.5 mile North Shore Trail, a portion of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Point State Park, the tip of Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle” where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join, can been seen as cyclists follow the shores of the Ohio River. The route crosses the Ohio River three times before reaching Monaca then heads north, following the Beaver River through the community of Beaver Falls toward Mercer.”

Click here to learn more about the UGRR Pittsburgh Spur

You can also watch this WPXI-TV segment on “Biking Through Black History” to learn additional information about the development of the UGRR. Special thanks to Mario Browne, Director of the Office of Health Sciences Diversity and Bruce Woods, President of Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club for contributing additional information to this blog post and helping to develop the Underground Railroad Bike Route!


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