One third of disabled people in UK cities would like to start cycling

Man and woman using adapted bicycles ©2017, Jonathan Bewley

An estimated 84% of disabled people living in the UK’s biggest cities never cycle for local journeys, yet one third (33%) say they would like to start cycling

6 June 2019

The “Inclusive cycling in towns and cities” report, published today by Sustrans and Arup highlights that women, older and disabled people continue to be neglected in cycling. This is despite the UK having a legal obligation through the Equality Act 2010 to protect everyone from discrimination in wider society.

An estimated 84% of disabled people living in the UK’s biggest cities never cycle for local journeys, yet one third (33%) say they would like to start cycling. The significant interest in everyday cycling is mirrored amongst other demographic groups, including women (32%) and people over 65 years old (15%).

The report uses data from Bike Life 2017, the largest assessment of cycling in seven major cities, and interviews with 12 focus groups consisting of women, older people and disabled people with reduced mobility, learning difficulty, hearing loss, partial sight, or mental health conditions.

Findings

It finds that people from these demographic groups face systematic barriers to either beginning to cycle, or to cycling more, including:

  • An association that cycling isn’t an activity for people like ‘them’.
  • Heightened safety concerns when sharing road space with motor vehicles.
  • Lack of seamless and dedicated cycle infrastructure to connect people to everyday destinations suitable for different types of cycles.
  • Access to and the high cost of adapted cycles, including electric cycles, and where government support exists e.g. through the cycle to work scheme, it is only available to those in employment.

Interestingly, many participants who cycle only do so for leisure, as they can choose their own routes through parks or along familiar quiet roads. This means cycling to everyday destinations like work, school, the shops and community services is out of reach for them.

If I had an adapted bike, I think I would feel less disabled and feel a bit cooler. I would feel more confident getting out and about.

- Participant with reduced mobility from Greater Manchester

Barriers to cycling can also often affect people’s independence and confidence to travel, and, in some cases, push people into isolation.

Recommendations

The report sets out a number of recommendations for towns and cities, including:

  • Ensuring the voices of underrepresented groups are integrated in policy and planning.
  • Creating a dense network of cycling routes within and around where people live and amenities.
  • Reducing through traffic in local neighbourhoods to improve safety.
  • Better access to cycle training and to adapted cycles.

Sustrans and Arup will use the initial findings from the report as the basis for further work to engage with organisations representing women, older people and disabled people to inform the transport sector to make urban cycling fully inclusive.

Xavier Brice, CEO for Sustrans, said:

“Inclusive transport is at the heart of a fairer society, and cycling can play a vital role in enhancing social inclusion. Sadly, in the UK an estimated 70% of the population can face systemic barriers to cycling, which shape and often limit their mobility, life opportunities and independence.  

“Our urban areas are predominantly designed around the car and only those brave enough to share road space with motor traffic currently consider cycling as a mode of transportation. However, women, disabled people and older people, who on average are less likely to regularly drive, suffer from the impact motor vehicles create, such as congestion and air pollution, which is damaging to their health and wellbeing. 

Cycle lanes end too quickly. They don’t last very long and you’re back on the road again. I think they’re great, because they are segregated cycle paths. They’re safe, but the fact that they make then run for half a mile is pointless.

- Female participant from Glasgow

“This report acknowledges that the UK can achieve big social changes. While it’s clear central governments need to show leadership and prioritise investment in cycling, we urge cities and towns to work with us to make cycling inclusive, safer and attractive for more people, regardless of gender, age and abilities.”

Mei-Yee Man Oram, UK Access and Inclusion Lead at Arup, said:

“Inclusive travel is an extremely important issue and we hope that this collaboration with Sustrans will open up a wider public conversation about ensuring everyone can access the benefits of cycling.

“Given the backdrop of climate change and air pollution in our cities - it’s vital we get more people involved in activities, such as cycling, which are not only good for their own personal health and wellbeing but for the environment.

“We’re excited about moving onto the next stage of this project with Sustrans, we hope our findings will be a valuable tool for the transport sector in making cycling more inclusive.”

Isabelle Clement, Director of Wheels for Wellbeing said:

“We welcome this Sustrans/Arup report, which re-affirms our charity’s own research findings and many of our own recommendations. As the campaigning voice of Disabled cyclists in the UK, we are encouraged to see major players across the cycling world give detailed attention to this agenda.

“Vast numbers of Disabled people are hampered from cycling at all or as much as they’d like to, not by their impairments but by infrastructure, financial and attitudinal barriers to cycling. The resulting costs for them and for society at large are huge (avoidable physical and mental ill-health, social isolation, etc.). Identifying these barriers means they can be removed.

“We very much look forward to working with Sustrans and Arup on pushing for full implementation of the report’s recommendations during phase two of this project”. 

For further information, images and interviews, and the report, please contact:

Anna Galandzij, Senior Press Officer at Sustrans, [email protected], 07557 915648
Liv Denne, Press and Media Officer at Sustrans, [email protected], 07768 035318.

Read the report: Inclusive Cycling in Cities and Towns

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