Black Unity Bike Ride in Britain: Tackling two problems in one ride

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A Black Unity Bike Ride event. Photo courtesy of Black Unity Bike Ride Twitter.

People from Black or African, and African Caribbean backgrounds, as well as South Asians in Britain are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes at the age of 25 than their White counterparts, whose risks occur at about age 45. Black people in Britain are also more likely than the majority White population to suffer from high blood pressure. To sit back and do nothing about these issues will only make matters worse. How strange, therefore, that at a time when more people are being encouraged to live healthier lives by engaging in exercise on a regular basis, one Black based organisation might have, perhaps, found a way to address some of these wide-ranging health tissues. Black Unity Bike Ride (BUBR) might just be an unwitting organisation that, in one swoop, serves two purposes: First, this initiative brings Black people together socially and physically, and, secondly, it provides opportunities to address health issues which affect the community disproportionately. They are, therefore, an example of one programme or initiative focusing on Black activism and health well-being simultaneously.

Healthier life choices and diets can play a vital role in our lives. As more British people become less physically active, eat less balanced and nutritious meals, and become increasingly obese, the need for lifestyle changes becomes desperately needed. For example, we have been urged to take short daily walks, maintain a healthy weight, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends five steps to mental wellbeing. These are: connect with other people; be physically active; learn new skills; engage in acts of giving and kindness; and pay attention to the present moment. It is in this sense, therefore, that BUBR’s emergence and development activities are very important in helping to tackle these health risks, especially within the Black community.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter resistance campaigns all over the world, as a way of confronting police brutality and the general racial discrimination towards Black people, very few of these initiatives and community responses, placed health and well-being at the forefront of their Black based community activism. It is particularly encouraging that BUBR seeks to use its Black political activism to focus on health and well-being. According to its own website, BUBR exists primarily to engage and address the under-representation of Black cyclists at all levels of the sport within the public domain, from elite to grassroots. According to Sport England research, only 57 per cent of Black people are considered physically active in the UK, which is lower than the majority of other ethnic groups. Black Unity Bike Ride therefore, provides a safe environment where cyclists and riders from diverse backgrounds can feel welcomed and also inspired to get active and remain so. Furthermore, BUBR not only seeks to encourage cycling, but holistic wellness within the Black community. Their flagship activity is the annual 14-mile bike ride across London, as well as monthly activities like the virtual BUBR challenges, ride with us, and spin with us.

One of the advantages of this Black based initiative is that it provides a safe space for Black people and others who are interested, to come together physically and socially regardless of age, skill or experience, to engage in one common act of riding. The second advantage of this initiative is that it allows people to connect with others socially in non-threatening ways. As suggested above by the NHS, this physical and social interaction is extremely important and was one of the issues which was seriously lacking during the recent national COVID-19 lockdowns. Let’s hope that increasing numbers of Black people will take advantage of such initiatives that positively impacts their overall health and well-being.

Dr. Tony Talburt is a senior lecturer at Birmingham City University in the UK.

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