“It is everyone’s job to encourage and inspire people – if we don’t start now, who will do it for us?”
This was the overriding message in a thought-provoking panel held by BCC at Brixton Cycles to celebrate this year’s Black History Month, highlighting the achievements and experiences of local Black cyclists. Attendees included members of the community, shop regulars and BCC members, and together over £200 for the shop in donations!
The panel – “the most amount of Black cyclists I’ve seen in 30 years,” to quote Lincoln – was chaired by BCC member Izu Chukwulobelu, and included local riders Yewande Adesida, Atiba Quildan, Dalila Lecky and Vee Lowe, as well as founder of Cycle Together Biola Babawale and Lincoln himself.
The discussion covered their experiences of getting into the sport, challenges with ensuring better representation and diversity across all levels of cycling, the advice they’d give to their younger selves, and how cycling clubs and allies can ensure they’re supporting inclusion initiatives. “Your first experiences as a new rider coming into the sport are crucial,” said Biola, stressing the importance of knowledge sharing and emphasising how cycling clubs need to make sure they’re not using unnecessary jargon and make their “shop window” as welcoming as possible.
Rightly so, challenging and uncomfortable topics were raised. Vee Lowe mentioned an episode in which she was leading a group of female riders of colour in the South Downs, when a motorist slowed down and shouted a racial slur at them merely, in her words, “for existing”. Lincoln added: “You don’t wake up expecting it but when it does happen you think ‘did just that happen’, and you can’t believe it did.”
In response, Biola explained: “I want to prepare people but if you [brief on it] at the start of a ride, it sets the tone – we want the rides to be about joy and friendships.” She said rider leaders need briefing so that those scenarios don’t become the focal point of what should otherwise be an enjoyable ride.
Some of the panellists had taken part in an introductory cycling session for Black riders at the nearby Herne Hill Velodrome earlier that day. They talked about how they “could see kids' eyes light up to ride with like-minded riders” at the session, and it was a reminder that representation matters: “When you turn up and you’re coached by people who don’t look like you it’s easy to think ‘why should I be there’, so we need representation at a coaching level,” Yewie said.
There is often an expectation for minorities themselves to be the ones to solve the issue of representation – this is exhausting and unfair. The panellists asked themselves, how can we help drive this forward while protecting our own time and energy? “What I can do is collaborate with others who share my passion,” said Biola. “[For example], working with those who want to get Black kids into cycling and I work with Black adults. I cannot do everything alone so I need to collaborate.”
Vee explained she had been the minority throughout her life – whether in cycling, work or completing her doctorate. Ultimately, Yewie said, “I shouldn’t let the fact I’m uncomfortable being the minority stop me from pursuing what I want to pursue.” Dalila Lecky had a similar view: “What’s to be lost from going out and finding out for yourself?”
We hope to arrange more events and talks at the shop in the future, so keep your eyes peeled on our Instagram for the latest. In the meantime, here’s a list of organisations you can support and resources to better understand representation in cycling:
Written by Marta Cooper (BCC Club Secretary)
Photos by Nikki Ray (BCC Diversity & Inclusion Officer)