I recently attended Pedalling Ideas in Leeds, where (among other speakers) Chris Garrison talked to us about diversity in cycling. She asked us to google images of various forms of cycling and make a mental note of what we saw, and what we didn’t see. What we saw was an overwhelming majority of white, young, able-bodied men in lycra. When we googled women's cycling we saw white, young, able-bodied women in lycra.
The problem is that this doesn’t reflect reality as the population of people who cycle is much more diverse than that. It contains people of all ages, abilities, colours, not always wearing lycra and not always riding a bicycle. The current set of images doesn’t help to encourage those who don’t see themselves in those images to think “Ooo maybe I’ll have a go at cycling!”. Cycling is for everyone and it’s not just white, young, slim, able-bodied, lycra-wearing people who cycle. But how can that message be sent when the images we see don’t reflect that?
Maybe there’s a way that we can show that cycling is also enjoyed by people who don’t fit the profile that we currently see? Perhaps we could showcase cyclists who are disabled, older people, people who aren’t slim and don’t wear lycra, people who don’t cycle on 2 wheels? I.e. showcase what I imagine (but could be wrong) is the majority of the cycling population that’s currently missing from the cycling industry’s marketing material.
So, what’s this diversity campaign then?
I want to do something, however small, to help to address this problem. I’d like to showcase the people who cycle who don’t fit the young, slim, white, able-bodied, lycra-wearing stereotype, and ideally in a way that inspires other people to do the same. I want to hear their cycling stories, how they cycle, why they cycle, why they like it, what their challenges are and what got them interested in cycling. Because cycling is for everyone and I'd love to see images and hear stories that reflects that.
To do this, I’d like people who don’t fit the current cyclist stereotype to share their cycling stories with me for me to create a collection of profiles to promote through social media and on my website. I’m hoping that everyone involved in the campaign will share each others’ profiles too. Maybe it will inspire others within the cycling industry to include a more diverse range of cycling and cyclists in their marketing strategies? Maybe it will inspire more people to cycle?
So if you’re not white, or not slim, or not young, or not able-bodied, or not a bicycle rider (perhaps you ride a trike, hand cycle, cargo bike..?) or there’s something else about the current images used that you don’t think represents you then I’d like you to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll use a common hashtag and hopefully inspire other people to do the same so the campaign grows organically.
What’s the goal?
I’m hoping that this will achieve at least one of the following (but hopefully all 3):
- Show those who don’t fit the stereotype that they are recognised and their images and stories are of interest.
- Inspire more people who don't fit the current stereotype to get into cycling
- Inspire other businesses in the cycling industry to think about diversity in cycling and update their marketing images so they reflect that diversity.
If nothing else, I will really enjoy seeing the diversity within cycling and hearing everyone’s stories, and I will share them with others who I know will feel the same.
So do you want to get involved?
Let's do something to make a change! :) Email me at email@example.com and I'll send you further details.