Andy and I are members of Kingston Wheelers, and he first contacted me about Diversity In Cycling at a very early stage. There had been a discussion in a committee meeting about the lack of diversity within the club, and it was agreed that Andy would go and look into the issues more thoroughly.
I must admit that I was surprised that there was an approach; it always appeared to me that Kingston Wheelers was a friendly and open club. It never dawned on me that someone would reach out and ask probing questions on diversity. I had intended to respond, excited by the prospect of someone taking up the mantle to inspire change. But then I stopped. I had met Andy at club events, but I didn’t really know him. I was taken aback by a white guy I didn’t know, albeit a very cool white guy, asking me to participate in a subject that could be deemed highly charged by our, on the surface, somewhat conservative club. This is a subject that runs deep and is part of my lived experience.
He followed up a few times. I didn’t respond. I didn’t want to appear as a maverick, and deep down I still don’t. Should I voice my thoughts in a public arena and risk standing out as ‘that guy’ in the club? Who was I to rock the boat in the quaint, traditional atmosphere of beautiful downtown Kingston?
What won me over was Andy’s persistence. He just got his head down and did the work. He saw something in me that I needed to get out and he never gave up. Reading it; shockingly honest, and seeing how much of himself Andy had given to a cause that could easily have bitten him. And, the surprising openness of the contributors, some of whom I knew personally.
The launch event at Look Mum No Hands blew me away; so many like-minded, rainbow coloured bike riders in one room with the same belief. The last time I saw anywhere near that many people, who looked like me and were into bikes, I was fourteen and riding with my brother and our mates in Shepherds Bush. What was this? I couldn’t stop smiling. I left the event absolutely buzzing!
My advice to clubs is, do not to be afraid to reach out to your members and the community to understand if the club reflects the diversity of the local community. I would advise that if deep down you know that change has to be made, then the hardest part is the first revolution, like pedalling. Prepare for a journey; change takes time, but the rewards are immense.
To people of colour, I would remind them of the fun we had as kids riding our bikes. It was our means of transport, a source of entertainment, and a uniting force without us knowing. It was our competition in riding the fastest and wheelieing the furthest. Swing a leg over a top tube (formally a crossbar), and we are there! Diversity In Cycling is a must read. It is easy to digest and insightful.
Picture: Ronn Fraser, courtesy of Bobby Waterman