Back in the Frame: Cycling, belonging and finding joy on a bike

Published: 12 June 2021

What is it about?

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Back in the Frame is an autobiography of Jools Walker, a UK-based blogger by the name Lady Vélo. The author recounts her relationship with cycling throughout her life, sharing her personal struggles on and off the bike, her experiences becoming more involved in the cycling industry, and the people (mostly women) she meets along the way – from bicycle frame builders, bike shop owners and mechanics, to professional racers. A recurring theme in the book is inclusion and equity, where, as a Black female raised in East London, she has experienced a lack of at all points in her life, and how she uses her voice and platform to help inspire others who are not represented in cycling to get on a bike. Through blog posts, participating in and promoting guides for more inclusive cycling cities, giving talks to promote women in cycling, and sharing her relationship so openly with cycling and the mental struggles she goes through help readers who feel the same overcome these challenges.

In the first several chapters, Walker shares stories about where she was raised and her first moments with a bicycle, “the most magical ‘toy’ I’d ever been given…” (page 49). She recognized her passion for cycling early on and remembersbeing inspired by her older sister to get on the bike no matter what people said, motivating her to launch a blog with the goal of helping others to get ‘back in the frame’ (page 126). Walker describes the various struggles she experiences – such as sexual harassment while cycling, her own health issues, unsafe road conditions, and an industry catering to the same demographic of male elite cyclists. She continues to be a voice for those absent: “the world of cycling would be enriched so much more with wider representation” (page  657).

What approach does it take?

Back in the Frame is a relatable commentary on the culture of cycling from a needed and relevant perspective. While it is directed more at the new cyclist or commuter, the book is also appropriate for anyone interested or working on cycling policy. She highlights that a “cycling revolution is not just about physical city changes” but also “about the social and cultural changes that were needed within cycling to get people from marginalized backgrounds on bikes…” (page 414). While the book reads more like a memoir of Walker’s challenges and accomplishments, it could have seized a good opportunity to directly emphasize how to increase cycling participation among these often underserved communities. Planners and policymakers have much to learn from expert citizens like Lady Vélo and her story and enthusiasm hold much power to convey the benefits of cycling – belonging, inclusion and mutual support, and finding joy.

Further details
  • Back in the Frame: Cycling, belonging, and finding joy on a bike, by Jools Walker, Little Brown UK, 2019, 368 pages, €15 (paperback), ISBN-13 : 978-0751570786
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