Things are still not right for women in cycling, and that’s an understatement. Examples are not hard to find but here’s a handful:
- Races & media coverage
- Prize money
- Sexist culture
- Financial & sexual exploitation
- Salaries & sponsorship
I don’t need to go on. These problems are widely known about. People are angry and frustrated with the pace of change, and so am I, and rightly so. This needs to be fixed. And not just for the sake of women, for the sake of all of us. Getting more women cycling is getting more people cycling which helps the planet, the economy, our health and our happiness.
There’s no good reason to NOT do something about it (unless you’re already eye-balls out doing what you can in which case high five to you – let me know if you need help). Not just because it’s not fair but because everyone benefits, even those who don’t cycle! It just makes bloody good sense!
It’s great that people are fired up and shouting about it. Awareness of a problem is the first step to solving it. But I want to do more than just shout about it. I want to act. Others do too. The question is, what can I do? What can others do? Most of us don’t have much spare time or money. We’re not short of the passion though and we have skills. Surely together we can do something?
Yeah we know we can retweet women’s cycling stuff and we can try to inspire other women to get cycling etc – that stuff is important and worthwhile – but that doesn’t feel like enough. It’s not enough.
The governing bodies and other existing organisations are doing some fantastic stuff but every organisation and person is limited when it comes to time and resources, no matter how big or well established they are. We, as a community of cyclists, can change things faster if we work together. Sure, the big organisations have money but they also have the distractions of running all the other things they’re focused on. They also suffer with issues of politics and red tape. They have concerns about brand and public image. The average cyclist can work faster because they don’t care about that stuff. They don’t need to care about that stuff.
Collaboration led by passion and a common purpose has got to be the answer. Many hands make light work and all that. Many brains solve a problem faster.
We’ve seen it in campaigns started by one passionate person (plus social media) determined to make a difference.
I hate to quote Rupert Murdoch (The Sun’s page 3 is only one reason but there are many), even he knows that things are changing and it’s not always due to the big organisations:
I know this from my own experiences within cycling. I joined a cycling club because of a friend who inspired and encouraged me when I thought I was too slow / not good enough to join. I started racing because of one woman who put together a women’s racing team and encouraged and supported me. I’ve got the skills to race because that woman decided to organise skills training for women in our local area. She’s now set-up her own charity to give women better chances for getting into and succeeding in the world of bike racing, and I know she’s the reason many others have got involved.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the big organisations have played no part in my journey into cycling and racing. Without them I couldn’t have raced. I’m not saying they’re not doing anything, they are. I’m not saying they’re not effective in what they’re doing, they are. They’re helping others. But they’re just part of the solution. The other part, a massive part, is made up of passionate cyclists volunteering their time and efforts and they can, and do, make a big difference. Look how successful the Breeze initiative has been. It’s successful because of the many volunteers, passionate about cycling and getting more women involved. Yes, the amount of money behind it has no doubt been a massive factor in its success but while each person may only have a small impact in their local area, if that work is replicated by a million other people think of how quickly things could change! More can be done if more of us step up. But what can we do eh?
Well, we could support existing organisations. Spread awareness, donate money etc. We can do more though, especially if we put our heads together.
We need to remove the barriers for people who want to help. The barriers are things like:
- Not knowing what the problems are or not understanding them well enough to be able to come up with an effective solution
- Not having much time or money and not knowing about things they could do to fit in around their busy lives
- Having the time, passion and a great idea to do something to help but getting de-motivated because it can get lonely trying to change things on your own and /or needing someone’s help – someone with a skill that they don’t have
- Wanting to help someone who’s already making a difference but not knowing what help they need
- Not knowing what works and what might be a waste of time
We need to share what works. This is a problem everywhere and there are people all across the world doing great things to solve or overcome the problems, the same problems, that people in some other part of the world are facing. If everyone who’s tried something that works shares what they did and how so others could replicate it then change would go further, faster.
It seems so obvious! So why aren’t people already doing it? Well, I would guess its mostly because the people already making a difference are probably pretty bloody knackered from all their efforts and are focused on solving the problem rather than thinking about whether someone else would like to know what they’re doing. Even if they would like others to replicate what they’re doing, how can they find out who those people are so they can connect?
Sometimes people may not want to share what they did to achieve success. Maybe it’s because they feel they’ve done lots of hard work and it doesn’t feel fair if someone else does the same without all that hard work. Maybe they want all the credit. That’s understandable. I’m not having a go. It’s human nature. But it’s not going to help achieve our common goal faster. One person or organisation can only do so much so quickly. If we make the ‘how’ of progress transparent so that others can copy and replicate it then we’ll achieve the goal faster – we all want the same thing right? Sharing ideas makes sense (Seth Godin thinks so, and this chap too).
So what if…
- we shared all our thoughts about the problems so everyone could see them and have the opportunity to try to solve them?
- we made all our ideas visible too so others could see them, and get the opportunity to use them or build on them or be inspired to think up other ideas?
- people shared what they’d done that made a difference so others could copy it and replicate it in their club / local area / field of cycling?
- existing organisations and change makers shared what they’re struggling with to give others the opportunity to help them?
- those who want to help could connect with those who need help?
- the bigger organisations with more money see what’s being done outside of their organisations and either copy it or amplify it using their funds?
I want to channel my passion for change into something constructive and make better use of my knowledge of IT and analysis skills (other than for making just-another-business richer). I know that I can only do so much on my own, so I wanted to find a way I could enable and empower others to get involved to make a difference too. So I created Bike5050.com in the hope it would be a useful tool to help make all of the things above happen. If one person does something to make a difference in some small way as a result of reading the site then I’ll think of it as a success. If it achieves nothing, it will at least have been an interesting learning experience and I can feel a bit better that I tried to do something to help. If it achieves much more than that then….ahhhh that would be flippin brilliant.
Bike5050.com probably isn’t the best platform. I knocked it up quickly using WordPress and have only just started creating content. There’s lots I want to do to improve it but I’m not going to have a huge amount of time, money or the skills to make what I have thought up in my head. Maybe someone else has made or will make something better – that would be awesome. Maybe someone else has already had this rant and has done or is doing the same thing. If that’s the case please tell me. Maybe I could help somehow or just tell others about it. I’m not trying to get kudos (although if you do like the idea please let me know to help me stay motivated), it’s not about Bike5050 being the solution, it’s just one way I thought of that might help to get change to happen faster. A way to bring people, problems, ideas and tips together, in the hope it will be a recipe for amazing change. So I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I didn’t want to say who I am on the site initially because, well, I’m shy I guess, a bit afraid of this kind of backlash but also because I don’t want this to be about me. I want it to be about the approach and the goal. I want it to be a collaborative project with the platform being a vehicle to help enable it. But when I didn’t say who I was someone (a fellow cyclist, excellent writer & very kind person) said it felt odd interacting with an unknown entity. They say “feedback is a gift” and that’s part of the philosophy behind Bike5050 so, here I am, telling you who I am:
My name’s Nic Fox. I work full time in IT as a Business Analyst (I work with people to understand problems and then work with techies to design and build solutions). I did an ironman once and loved the bike bit the best. I’m a member of Manchester Wheelers and last year helped to double the number of women members. I tweet for @WomensCyclingMcr, and helper of the M&DLCA. I like all sorts of cycling – road, MTB, cyclocross, track and time trialling, although not been doing a lot of that recently due to work and being excited about setting this up. I like sharing info, solving problems and helping people, especially newbies and people seen as the underdog. I tend to be enthusiastic about things. I also tend to be a bit shy and can get a bit anxious. I feel a bit vulnerable now so please be gentle!
Anyway, I hope soon I’m not saying who I am but who we are. I want to be part of a group of people (not just women) working together to kick inequality’s ass through direct action. I want it to be fun.
So, if you think Bike5050 is a good idea, let me know, join me (/us) and spread the word. If you think it’s a rubbish idea then tell me that too and tell me why. Maybe it will help us come up with a better one.
Let’s work together to get equality in cycling! It’s definitely worth trying, and it could be fun 🙂