In August 2020 I wrote a blog post about Diversity and Inclusion in the Bicycle Adventure Club. It left me with the mandate to: be more mindful, educate myself and start some conversations.
Over the last few years the Bicycle Adventure Club has grown into a wonderful community of kind, passionate cyclists that support, encourage & share. It is a community that Mary & I are really proud of and grateful for.
Humans desire to belong. We need to feel connected and heard. It is why cycling clubs and groups exist and the very reason representation in those groups matters. You are our People.
The truth is: cycling is still presented as a white, male, slim, able-bodied, heterosexual, neurohomogenous and elitist activity. Just google the word ‘cyclist’ and select images. What are you presented with? – See above list. When you don’t see yourself represented or catered for in cycling you get the message that it isn’t for people like you and that approach simply isn’t going to encourage people into cycling.
I am lucky in that I have enough disposable income to be able to cycle, I am white and have all the privileges that comes with that. When I am seen on my bike people don’t question wether it is my bike or not, they do question if I know what I am doing and lord knows that causes me to question myself and the dreaded Imposter syndrome appears: or is it oppression? The irony is I cycle to free myself of these things.
I have spent countless hours researching whether bicycle wheels and frames will hold my weight, or if they will fit me because I am short. Manufacturers won’t warranty a frame or components if the rider is over a certain weight. Why? Why is there still only ONE manufacturer in the UK of cycle specific clothing that I can comfortably purchase from? Rarely do brands cater for larger bodies appropriately. Or worse; they cater for larger bodies but assume that large women want pink and patterns and large men want practical and blue. They ‘listen’ to their customers. Wouldn’t it make better business sense to reach out and listen to ‘potential customers’?
These are some of the barriers I face. That I am poorly catered for has been a source of shame. I am not catered for because I am the problem. I am the one who needs fixing, not the industry. First world problems I know, but imagine being at the start of your cycling journey! It isn’t encouraging and it needs to change.
This journey has pulled together many threads from my own life, leading to constant education, growth and reflection.
There just needed to be some action.
A Meeting of Minds
In November 2020 Pride Out creator Richard Hearne wrote: An open letter on the Diversity and Inclusion Problem in Cycling and cited some stark statistics.
We could see this issue was wider than one particular demographic and that the diversity we craved to see was frustratingly, already out there, in the grassroots groups, doing incredible work individually. We concluded that we needed a way to bring all of those groups together and give us a point of reference, a voice and a platform to initiate some real changes.
Testing the Waters
In December we curated a meeting that included: Sandy Sullivan (mother of brave professional Cyclist Emily Bridges), and representatives from Black Cyclist Network, Dwarf Sports, Cycle Sisters & Spoke-Out; to see if such an Alliance was needed.
The answer was a resounding ‘yes’. The meeting backed up the statistics Richard had highlighted in his Open Letter; that the issues surrounding diversity & inclusivity were similar & prevalent across all groups.
The summary of that meeting:
- The current cycling establishment (governmental, professional and charities) appear to have no invested interest in being or fostering a diverse and inclusive culture.
- As a consequence any efforts they make appear tokenistic and don’t initiate real changes in the upper echelons where the power, decisions and money reside.
- It is the grassroots groups and clubs that are doing all the hard work to ensure that cycling is made available to all relying on volunteers and sourcing their own funding.
A group is needed that:
By-passes the establishment. An independent group of diverse allies that creates its own larger voice and a safe space to effect real changes and lead by example.
It was without doubt, a powerful, emotional and insightful meeting and left us all with a fire and determination.
We began to reach out to more grassroots, minority groups and allies for their stories and experiences. Richard worked hard on developing a website and we began to present across social media eventually sending out an invite to a Launch Night.
The response was incredible and humbling. Over 90 groups and individuals registered an interest showing that there is a real desire to be seen, heard, connected and represented.
The Cycling Diversity Alliance
Last night we held a Zoom meeting to officially launch the Cycling Diversity Alliance. It was supported by 12 cycling groups and over 60 people attended from across the UK (and XL Biking from Sweden ;)) including Individuals that felt no existing cycling group represented them and professional cycling bodies.
We listened to some amazing voices. Bold & vulnerable stories and incredible ideas as to how the Alliance could work and move forward. By the end it was clear that everything we needed to begin to make cycling truly diverse and inclusive was in that meeting.
Everyone left excited and optimistic that the Cycling Diversity Alliance will bring us all together to begin to remove the barriers to cycling and challenge the traditional narratives.
If you would like to connect with the Cycling Diversity Alliance or know more please join our Facebook page and our Website:
The next steps for our new network are to form a working group to establish a mission, vision and objectives with a view to another meeting further down the line.
If you are interested to be involved , it would be great to hear from you – please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a little about your background and what you could contribute.
I will Keep you posted
Thank you for reading.
I’m really grateful to Richard Hearne for his support, passion and hard work and for the new friends I have met through him. I cannot wait until we can all finally get together in person and go out on a big bicycle ride.