Our Ride – from strategy to action

Opinion header

Working with British Cycling on their diversity and inclusion strategy – launched today – means that as well as sharing my knowledge, I have learned a lot about British Cycling and more about inclusion challenges within cycling and I’ve been happy to be on an action-orientated group.

At the same time as working with British Cycling, I have been working on a communications strategy for a pro-cycling client. The process has been the same – I’ve reviewed organisational goals, talked to internal and external stakeholders, considered resources, made recommendations, agreed a final strategy with the board and recommended actions to deliver the strategy and a way to measure it. Without these, a strategy is expensive wrapping paper.

And now we act.

The actions will deliver the strategy’s pillars: creating an inclusive culture; making decision-making more reflective of society; developing a more diverse workforce; framing a powerful marketing and communications strategy; adapting the membership offering; developing an inclusive talent pathway and forming purposeful partnerships.

I’m encourage my cycling contacts to read the strategy and to see where they can support it through your actions. And I am encouraging all my contacts – cycling and non – to consider how you can mirror the strategic aims in your own organisation.

I am looking forward to helping British Cycling achieve their goals. They are my goals too – I have worked in diversity for two decades! I’ve not worked in cycling as long – and that has been a strength. My freshness means I am open to learning and bring other learnings to a group.

I’ve learned a lot from the other members of the Diversity & Inclusion External Advisory Group (can we call it D&I EAG?), just as I have learned a lot from my pro-cycling client over the last few months. The lack of current diversity in pro-cycling means female pro cyclists lack personal and professional protection – experiencing bullying, sexual harassment as well as lacking contracts and equality in pay, race opportunities and representation in broadcasting and print media. It means lack of racial diversity and lack of openly gay pro riders – which leads to lack of opportunities and mental wellbeing. And it means lack of race opportunities and support for disabled pro cyclists. I like it when my work is connected.

Developing the strategy with British Cycling has impacted my work with Greater Manchester charity sportive Tour de Manc – I am their diversity lead. When British Cycling launched their Transgender and Non- Binary Consultation we reviewed Tour de Manc’s practices. And of course I used my learnings from Tour de Manc to advise British Cycling. We’re being especially welcoming to women, to the LGBT+ community, to black and Asian riders and to riders with disabilities through our marketing and outreach so that the sportive better reflects our diverse community.

One of my big reflections this year has been of the importance of ‘the welcome’. This is for small clubs, community groups, sportives, the pro-circuit, the press. I’ve often been the only woman on a team, on a ride, at an event – and different things (words, greetings, attitudes) have made me feel welcome – or not. There are so many ways to make people feel more welcome: we tell them they are welcome; we visit their spaces to invite them to things – events, races, groups, to apply for jobs, to be a volunteer; and we listen and act when they are talking. We give them space to ask questions.

You will see British Cycling advertising jobs and volunteering opportunities in new spaces. You will see them inviting people from underrepresented groups to apply for positions. You will see British Cycling’s marketing (including the D&I strategy) showing diverse representations of cyclists. And you will see continued opportunities to respond.

I am looking forward to working with British Cycling on their marketing – to make sure they welcome opinions and then take these into account. They are committed to doing this – as an external advisor one of my roles is to hold them to account.

Please take a look at their strategy. Please contact them for queries on it. Please feel welcome to contact me about my own work and knowledge of diversity in action. I’m proud of being well-connected to a diverse range of people.

I’m very proud of my listening skills.

It’s what leads to action.

How do you keep people cycling?

It’s no secret that I love cycling. I’ve used it for my daily commute in most places I’ve lived: growing up in my home village, Burtonwood, then in Manchester, Missouri, Cardiff, St Albans and Vancouver.

My London life was pre-cycle superhighway (and also perhaps a little fun-filled) for a safe bike commute so I took a break there, likewise in Australia where my love of the bus and a working ozone layer meant I didn’t brave a two-wheeled commute. Otherwise I suppose I’ve been pretty committed.

My bike doesn’t have a curfew. It’s taken me to gigs, black-tie dos and to weddings. (Bonus – it’s easier to cycle in heels than to walk in them.) Oh, and at weekends I dress in lycra and cycle some more.

I’m constantly told how brave I am for cycling. I don’t feel brave but as so many people tell me I am, I figure I must be.

But as Chris Boardman said, ‘You shouldn’t have to be brave to ride a bike or cross a road.’ And that’s why I’ve been vocal in the active travel movement for some time. People don’t always see cycling or walking as desirable ways to commute. There’s loads we can do to change this.

It starts with listening and understanding what people want in their lives and their commutes and once we’ve understood what the different desires and reservations are, we can respond to them, motivate them.

People need the capability, motivation and opportunity to change their behaviour and a good engagement program will address these factors. I’m fortunate to be an ambassador for Trek Bikes who are committed to getting more women on two-wheels. This means I get the opportunity to reach more women. At the moment we have a lot of new cyclists. Our aim is to keep them cycling in the long-term.

By listening to new riders and walkers about what they want to see more of in their neighbourhood, we’ll motivate them in the short-term. And by responding to their words, we’ll keep them motivated in the long-term.

The Government has passed legislation enabling local authorities to make emergency changes in infrastructure. This is the opportunity.

If you need advice on communicating the short-term and long-term benefits of active travel to your community – you should ring my bell!

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