Sensing the Network: Visually impaired cycling

Tandem riders on a group ride along a cycle path

Tandem cycling allows visually impared people to feel safe and confident getting back in the saddle Photo © Liz Milner

Tandem riders on a group ride along a cycle path

Not only are there great health benefits... Photo © Liz Milner

Tandem riders on a group ride along a cycle path

But cycling is a great way to meet people too Photo © Liz Milner

We believe that everyone, whatever their ability, should have the opportunity to experience the benefits that cycling can bring. We build routes and networks to the highest possible standards, ensuring that people with different needs are considered in the design.

As a result, a number of organisations across the UK use the National Cycle Network to encourage those who are visually impared to get back into cycling. Using tandem bikes, with the sighted rider at the front, the groups lead fun rides which are a great opportunity to socialise, get some exercise and boost confidence.

You can hear from a number of visually impared people about the importance, challenges and experiences of cycling on the National Cycle Network in our series of AudioBoom podcasts.

Talking Tandems visually impaired cycling group ride through Fife in Scotland, using National Route 1:

“I enjoy exploring and hearing the different soundscapes and the smells. Even the smell of tarmac after it’s been raining is a glorious one. As my confidence has grown I’ve started to cycle further afield and have got to know my local neighbourhoods and have come to recognise its sounds and smells.”

Two's Company visually impaired cycling group ride through North Somerset using National Route 33:

“It’s not just about the riding although that’s important, it’s the social side to it.  Before I came out on these rides I hadn’t interacted with other visually impaired people and part of that was my struggle to come to terms with my sight loss. [These rides] were the first step to accepting the situation…and a massive help to me. It’s a lot more than just riding a bike for me.”

Tandem Trekkers visually impaired cycling group use many of the traffic free routes on the National Cycle Network in South Yorkshire, including National Route 62:

“I’d ridden bikes all my life until my eyesight started deteriorating.  One of the things with losing your sight is that you lose your confidence and a by-product of that is depression.  To get out and about, get active, get the endorphins pumping…it’s better than taking any tablets.  Cycling’s part of it but it’s also the social aspect that you can’t put a price on. We’ve got some cases of people who’ve been lonely, isolated and coming out on a bike has transformed them.”

If you want to try tandem bike riding, then there are a number of great organisations to contact, including:

Find out more about the National Cycle Network

Find routes on the Network near you, or get some walking and cycling inspiration.