The lack of diversity in cycling is an opening can of worms, which is a good thing.
But it’s also an odd thing, because cycling is broad and spans exercise, transport, sport and play. This blog focuses on cycling as play – sports clubs. But it’s true that the sport of cycling lacks diversity in sport and in those using bikes to commute.
Director Sarah Galligan is a woman’s advocate for bike brand Trek and diversity lead for cycling sportive Tour de Manc. She was the only female in her sub-team of 12 which was part of a peloton of 140 with less than 30 women who completed the Cycle to MIPIM in 2019. She’s noticed the lack of ethnic diversity in bike clubs – including the group she manages – Trek Women Manchester Piccadilly, a group which has a good representation of LGBT+ members and good range of cycling abilities, but is very white in a city which isn’t.
Sarah’s working to change the perception of cycling, advising clients on their marketing. We need to show diversity in bike types: you can ride on a 35 year old banger as long as it’s safe. You can ride on a road bike, a mountain bike, a hybrid, a tandem, a trike, using a trailer, a child seat, a basket, maybe with panniers. Riders don’t have to wear lycra, sportswear or helmets. And you need to show diversity in people: kids, adults, adults with grey hair, no hair, black skin, white skin, brown skin, skinny riders, curvy riders, muscular riders, women and men.
And she’s working to increase diversity in participation, promoting cycling opportunities for women in national cycling forums and supporting LGBT+ and new cycling clubs, particularly those focusing on new and diverse riders.
She created and drives a diversity plan for the Tour de Manc sportive which is being implemented by the whole organising team and after one-month has raised the profile of women participants in the sportive, of female professionals attached to the sportive and has promoted the event inclusively. There has been a change in language used from macho to supporting riders in the challenge and all marketing talks of inclusivity and she has identified BAME advocates for the sportive. Small steps. More planned.
When groups can’t show current ethnic diversity they need to showcase this commitment to inclusivity, a point made in British Cycling’s (BC) recent report Diversity in Cycling. Group leaders should raise their own racial awareness – to be aware of the potential aversion for Muslim riders to wear Lycra or of prayer times, for example. There are too many rules in cyling any way! As British Cycling’s report recommends, we need to demystify the customs of cycling – clothes, etiquette, terminology. And white ride leaders and group leaders like Sarah, need to speak to BAME cyclists and have uncomfortable conversations.
Sarah is interviewing Adina Crawford (pictured with Sarah on a Zoom call) of US group Black Girls Do Bikes, Richard Hearne of Pride Out and Steve Scott from Dwarf Sports for a webinar on Diversity in Cycling on 15 October 2020 as part of a series of webinars for Trek Bikes. Join them.