“I come from a long line of cycling people – it’s ingrained in my family folklore,” Rob says. He is passionate about cycling and sustainable travel and wants to encourage as many people to get involved as possible.
This is part of his role as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Executive for Modeshift, a not-for-profit membership organisation that promotes cycling and other forms of active travel. Rob identifies as a gay man and believes in always being himself. Not an intentional role model, Rob says “yes, I am a gay man, and yes I cycle, the two worlds don’t always cross over but it’s about being your authentic self.”
In his other role as chair of the LGBTQIA+ network at Derbyshire County Council, he tries to get this across. “One of the things we always talk about is visibility – LGBTQIA+ people seeing people [like them] gives them the confidence to be themselves”.
LGBTQIA+ History Month 2023
This year’s theme celebrates LGBTQIA+ people’s contribution to cinema and film. Rob reflects on his lived experience of growing up in the 80s and seeing cycling represented on film. “Growing up in the 80’s the iconic cycling movie moment was of course ET and BMX bikes were all the rage when I was a kid”.
Young Rob marveled at the idea of BMXing across the night sky, but today, he wonders “do we see any positive portrayals of the LGBTQIA+ community cycling?” For Rob, flying in the sky with an extra-terrestrial is not the cycling representation he’s looking for. “We need to see people from all walks of like doing ordinary things on cycles”.
As someone who has worked many Pride events, Rob has seen the impact the lack of representation has, “when you go to a Pride event, you don’t tend to see bikes.” He has even conducted Travel Attitude surveys to correlate LGBTQIA+ attitudes towards active travel, in particular cycling. He says in his findings, there is some evidence to suggest LGBTQIA+ people are less likely to walk or cycle journeys less than 5 miles.
There could be many reasons why this is, but to Rob, representation is key to welcoming more people to choose active travel. It seems we need more people being themselves and championing active travel, and Rob is always happy to model this himself. “I can’t arrive at a school and talk about sustainability if I’ve turned up in my car”.
Cycling has long been a passion for Rob, along with encouraging all sorts of people to choose sustainable and active, whether they are part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not. “Don’t let the heteronormative portrayal of cycling put you off and make you think it’s not for you,” is Rob’s advice.
You can find out more about Modeshift and their work here.
Looking for a cycling community? PRiDEOUT are a friendly and inclusive cycling group for LGBTQIA+ people. Have a look at their website for groups and rides in your area.