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Photograph: Black Cyclists Network
Photograph: Black Cyclists Network

‘Cycling is for everyone – not just white men’: Why Mani Arthur’s on a mission to diversify the sport

Founder of Black Cyclists Network explains why he started the cycling group

Written by
Kate Lloyd

I got into cycling in 2009. I was fed up with being packed into a train on my commute. Cycling became my weekends. I fell in love with the freedom it offered – even though it hurt like hell.

Every time I’d attend a race, I’d find myself being the only person of colour on the starting line. I figured that for a lot of people that would be an intimidating atmosphere.

I started trying to connect people. It was almost like Professor Xavier, X-Men style: whenever I’d see a person of colour out cycling I’d be like: ‘Let’s exchange numbers.’

In 2018, I decided to pull together all the relationships and start the Network. Now we’ve got 100 members in London. We’re open to all levels. The aim is to make people feel like they’re not alone – which they can at other cycling clubs.

Cycling is steeped in etiquette. Cycling clubs expect new joiners to be very competent. That can cause anxiety already, but if you’re also the only person of colour there it can be very intimidating. Same for women, as it’s so male-dominated.

Being the only person of colour in a group makes you less self-confident. Whereas we give people an opportunity to be themselves and say: ‘I don’t have to be the perfect example of the Black person because I’m not the only Black person here.’

In June I launched a crowdfunder. It’s to help us start the first BAME race team in the UK. I thought we’d just get members contributing to it but I was overwhelmed by the positive response. We’ve made double our target.

We’re going to race next year, first in the amateur ranks. The view is to eventually become professional and potentially put out a women’s team. We’re trying to create spaces and opportunities for people of colour at every level. Even kids.

Lots of people got into cycling in lockdown. One of the things that really lifted my spirits was seeing whole families riding their bikes together.

Black Cyclists Network meets in Regent’s Park every Saturday at 8am. It has three groups for different levels. Find out more here

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