Diversity In Cycling – Launch Event

To mark the launch of the DIVERSITY IN CYCLING report, we held an event at Look Mum No Hands! which brought to life the themes in the report.  On a hot, sticky summer’s evening, LMNH was packed with over 100 cyclists, male and female, from all backgrounds and all walks of life.  With nine speakers together with audience questions we massively over-ran, but despite this and the hot and crowded venue, people stayed for the duration of the talk and many stayed afterwards.  

Speakers included Biola Babawale of Velociposse who contrasted her experiences of cycling with her career in the white, male dominated arena of asset management.  Mani Arthur described his vision for forming Black Cyclists Network, while Junaid Ibrahim described his experiences in forming Brothers on Bikes.  Nasima Siddiqui, co-foudner of Wyndymilla spoke of her long experience in cycling and the impetus for founding Wyndymilla, a vibrant and innovative cycling brand with an inclusive ethos.  PJ Dulay of the Fireflies and Cicli Artigianali discussed the mystique and etiquette surrounding cycling and how this can sometimes be intimidating for newcomers.  Matt Kumar of Kingston Wheelers highlighted the key takeouts for KW and other London cycling clubs.

Special guest, former professional and cycling legend, Maurice Burton together with his friend Joe Clovis told of their experiences of racism in cycling during the 1970s and their pathway through through the sport culminating with Maurice acquiring De Ver Cycles and forming Team De Ver C.C.

Following an audience Q&A, the evening was brought to a close with the impassioned words of Yewande Adesida of SES Racing who, having earlier described her own pathway into the sport, encouraged others to take up the mantle. 

Hopefully this is just the beginning of what is a long overdue conversation within the cycling community.

Photographs by Calvin Cheung www.ccheungphotography.com

Diversity In Cycling – The Report

This project started as a conversation between my friend Mani Arthur and I.  Mani is British Ghanaian and I am a white guy.  We are both cyclists and we both shared the same observation: more people from Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds seem to be taking up cycling as a sport, but not necessarily joining cycling clubs.  Overall, the sport of cycling looks very white.  

As a result of that conversation: two things happened: Mani decided to form Black Cyclists Network and I decided to write a report titled “DIVERSITY IN CYCLING”.  Originally the aim was to produce a brief discussion paper for my own club, Kingston Wheelers, but very quickly the report gained momentum, attracting over 60 contributions from riders of BAME backgrounds, including a number of Muslim riders, and securing the support of British Cycling, whose CEO Julie Harrington contributed the Foreword.

You can read more about British Cycling’s involvement here and read the report itself here.

Fundamentally, cycling is a sport anyone can enjoy and it is actually more accessible than many people perceive.  The report details challenges, but there is lots of positivity too.  Key themes revolved around representation and visibility, if cycling is seen to be diverse it will attract a more diverse pool of riders.  Telling more than one story is important.  The media often seen obsessed with the narrative that cycling is a hobby for middle class middle age white guys when the reality is that cycling is so much more and the “MAMIL” phenomenon is actually quite recent.  Key recommendations in the report include:

PROMOTE VISIBILITY (BUT BE AUTHENTIC)

If your club has members from BAME backgrounds, with their permission, include those members in any visual representation of club membership. This helps make BAME participation visible to others; consider deploying ambassadors as a point of contact.

If you do not have many BAME members or none at all, do not try to be something that you are not, but do promote your values: if you are open to all newcomers regardless of race and gender say so. We all have to start somewhere, but let’s make a start.

PROMOTE ACCESSIBILITY

Many larger clubs have different rides across the week with different start times. Not everyone can make 9am on a Sunday morning. Promote a range of options.  Provide context to cycling club culture, what it means to be in a club, to ride in a group and general dos and don’ts. 

BE INCLUSIVE

Inclusion is essential to diversity. It is not just about having BAME riders present but ensuring riders of all backgrounds feel included and visible. Work with others both within your club and the broader community to share knowledge and promote pathways. 

TELL MORE THAN ONE STORY

Challenge stereotypes that cycling is the preserve of middle-aged middle class men in Lycra.  It is not. Cycling in the UK and Europe has been traditionally a rural and working class sport that has grown so much its appeal is universal. Cycling is for everyone.

RAISE YOUR OWN RACIAL AWARENESS

Many white people are uncomfortable talking about race. That is because most of us are not equipped to have the conversation. Read, listen and learn. If one person stands out in a group, be aware they may feel an extra level of intimidation than any other newcomer.

MONITOR PROGRESS

Quantify your membership through capturing ethnicity data on joining/ renewal forms.  Monitor progress over time. Larger clubs and organisations should certainly do this.