Blog of the Quarter: Active Travel Academy

This article was published in 2022, in Magazine 154.

‘Diversifying cycling is not about adding colour into cycling imagery. It’s not even ultimately about the underrepresented groups, or how we feel about cycling. It’s about bringing deep-rooted assumptions to the fore, understanding where they come from and whose view of the world they privilege.’

The Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster brings together practitioners, academics, students and others with an interest or expertise in active travel. Its blog gives an insight into many different areas of its work and research.

In Still I Ride: How women of colour are challenging discourses in and through cycling, Active Travel Academy Equity Fellow Dulce Pedroso considers how a controversial Transport for London ad calling for drivers and cyclists to show empathy to each other might have been different if the cyclist hadn’t been a middle-aged male. She writes: ‘Would the false equivalence have been too obvious to ever get a sign-off, if the cyclist urged to think about the driver’s feelings had been a woman of colour with a child seat, and the driver had been a middle-aged man in an SUV?’

Introducing a series of interviews with women of colour she’d carried out for her research (and which form part of the Active Travel Podcast), she points out that race- and ethnicity-based exclusion may manifest in a feeling of not belonging and that this is amplified by a cycling culture which is often still primarily framed as a sport, or focused on material things such as gear and kit. Interviewees talked about being ‘sized up’ by cycling clubs or feeling like their skin colour made them ‘stick out’ when cycling in rural areas. Many of the women she talks to are challenging assumptions through their life and cycling roles, but Dulce concludes that this work is for all of us, ‘because changing the dominant discourse benefits everyone – except those who are benefiting from the marginal status of cycling’.