Dave Hill asked in the Guardian today Why are all cyclists so white male and middle class?. Although the article is London-centric, it’s true across the UK; you’re more likely to cycle regularly if you tick those three boxes. Of the 29 people at the Walk, Cycle, Vote ride in Glasgow yesterday, only six were women and everyone was white.
Given this, it was exceptionally disappointing when CTC (“the national cycling charity”) proudly announced last month that the eight speakers they had booked for their annual conference were all men.
The list has since been amended to add two women, but I struggle to understand why they’ll still be outnumbered by four-to-one. It’s not like we’re short of excellent female cycling campaigners; run off a list of the top cycling advocates in Scotland and three of the first four that come to mind are women.
— Suzanne Forup (@backonmybike) October 11, 2015
The Women’s Cycling Forum had no men at all speaking at their last gathering, and from all reports didn’t suffer from an absence of quality.
— Suzanne Forup (@backonmybike) June 14, 2014
I’m not going to speculate how CTC ended up in such a sorry state, but (as far as I’ve seen) there’s been no acknowledgement that this bias is wrong. Contrast this to Living Streets, who at least owned up after making a similar mistake:
We are also grateful that some of our supporters expect better of us. Repeat: it won’t happen again. 2/2
— Living Streets (@livingstreets) October 9, 2015
Half the population is better placed than me to explain why male-heavy panels are damaging (although we all have an obligation to do something about it), but it’s important to add that this kind of lazy, institutional bias doesn’t just hurt the women around us.
In the UK at the moment, active transport comes near the bottom of the heap when it comes to hard cash and political interest. If we let cycling appear only relevant to that most favoured member of society—the white, middle-class, middle-aged male—it will justifiably lose out on cash against projects that clearly benefit all.
CTC has let down all its members by capitulating on this battle, and if it doesn’t sort out its problems and stop hiding behind excuses, it doesn’t deserve our support.
PS: Photo at the top from Suzanne Forup’s Twitter feed, showing attendees at the last Women’s Cycle Forum.