My name is Richard Hearne, founder of an LGBTQ+ cycling club PRiDE OUT. I’ve always loved cycling since being a child. But it wasn’t until until 2015, aged 32, that I took up cycling seriously as an adult after buying my beloved titanium road bike. Since then I’ve cycled 17,000 miles and it has vastly improved my physical and mental health.
I once cycled with a ‘traditional’ cycling club but I felt anxious about ‘coming out’ about my sexuality. It’s hard to quantify why I felt like this because it’s complex, but I feel it is a legacy of societal prejudices that I grew up with which have made me feel I’m different on some occasions. I’ve also learned to self-censor in some situations to stay safe or to have an easier life. I have to be pretty sure it won’t a very uncomfortable situation before choosing to say the words ‘I’m gay’.
There are usually around 150 Pride events every summer in the UK celebrating LGBTQ+ people (but also protesting for equality). LGBTQ+ people are often unseen which means they can sometimes be forgotten about. This can especially be true in sport.
Some of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ community include:
- Stonewall: Half of LGBTQ+ people (52 per cent) experienced depression in the last year
- LGBT Foundation: ‘Statistics consistently show that LGBT people are more at risk of feelings of loneliness or being socially isolated.’
- UK Drug Policy Commission: ‘Drug use among LGBT groups is higher than among their heterosexual counterparts, irrespective of gender or the different age distribution in the populations.’
- Pride Sports and Sports England study confirms: ‘55% of LGBTQ+ men were not active enough to maintain good health compared to 33% of men in the general population; 56% of LGBTQ+ women compared to 33% of women in the general population; and 64% of LGBTQ+ people who identified as something other than male or female (e.g. gender-fluid or gender-queer)
For these reasons, I founded a nationwide grass roots cycling network called PRiDE OUT in May 2019. My goal was simply for me to make new friends to cycle with and encourage more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) people to start cycling. I wanted to remove one extra barrier to joining a sports group, which to some people can be daunting experience.
PRiDE OUT is a friendly and inclusive cycling group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ)+ people and allies across the UK. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, bike or ability. The group started in 2019 in Manchester with regular social cycle rides and quickly spread throughout North West England. We became affiliated with Cycling UK in May 2020 and have ambitions to have chapters across the UK. To date our social media reach has grown rapidly to nearly 10,000 people across various channels around the UK.
On 17 February, we launched an LGBTQ+ network in cycling called Cycling Pride. This is an inter-organisational network creating a safe and inclusive space for amateur/elite riders, participants, workers and volunteers in cycling. My hope is that this network will grow to allow everyone to feel they can be their true self without fear of prejudice. I also hope it will encourage many more people from the LGBTQ+ community to get into cycling, who wouldn’t have done so otherwise.