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Sustrans proposes measures to support disabled cyclists

Deniz Huseyin
06 June 2019
Cycling infrastructure design standards should meet the needs of those using adapted cycles including tricycles, tandems and cargo bikes, says Sustrans/Arup report (Image: Wheels for Wellbeing)
Cycling infrastructure design standards should meet the needs of those using adapted cycles including tricycles, tandems and cargo bikes, says Sustrans/Arup report (Image: Wheels for Wellbeing)

The Blue Badge, Motability and Cycle to Work schemes should be offered to disabled people using bikes, says Sustrans. This would remove some of the barriers to cycling that many disabled people face, believes the walking and cycling charity.

“The Blue Badge scheme should be extended so that disabled people can use it with their cycle for better access,” said Tim Burns, Sustrans’ senior policy and partnerships advisor. 

A growing number of high footfall city and town centres are pedestrianised while there are spaces around buildings that are pedestrian-only, Burns points out.

He told Local Transport Today: “Anyone with a Blue Badge would be able to cycle with care across these spaces to ensure equal access to everyday destinations for people who use a cycle as a mobility aid. 

“It could also allow safer parking – for example, a Blue Badge could allow access to cycle into office buildings to safely lock up an adapted cycle as they are typically more expensive and may not fit with a typical Sheffield stand.”

There is a strong argument for opening up Motability funding for disabled riders, said Burns. The Motability Scheme enables disabled people to exchange their mobility allowance to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair. “The UK Motability scheme currently does not include any types of cycles. We recommend extending the offering through Motability to enable disabled people to also lease different types of cycles - standard and adapted - through the scheme where they are used as a mobility aid.”

Sustrans is also calling for a review of the Cycle to Work Scheme - which allows employees to receive loans of up to £1000 on bikes and equipment tax-free - to increase the upper limit and eligibility. “Disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people while older people are highly likely to be retired,” said Burns.

“This means they can be excluded from accessing the Cycle to Work scheme. We recommend offering this scheme outside of the workplace, for example through social prescribing to all people not just those in work. One example of this is the Scottish Government recently set up a loan scheme to anyone living in Scotland access an electric cycle.”

Design standards

These are among the recommendations set out in ‘Inclusive Cycling in Towns and Cities’ report published today by Sustrans and engineering and design consultancy Arup.

Other recommendations include: ensuring the voices of under-represented 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. 

Another issue highlighted in the report is that cycling infrastructure design standards should meet the needs of those using adapted cycles including tricycles, tandems and cargo bikes. “Adapted cycles are typically wider (up to 1.2m), longer (up to 2.8m) and heavier than standard bicycles and turning circles can be reduced. Design standards should include minimum cycle track widths that fit for all types of adapted cycles,” said Burns.

“Barriers along routes should be removed or widened to fit adapted cycles. Access should always be step-free and inclines minimised as adapted cycles can often be heavier than standard bicycles. Cycle parking also needs improvements to fit non-standard cycles including home, destinations and integration with public transport.”

Bike hire for all

Cycle hire operators should introduce measures to encourage women, disabled and older people to user their services, says the report.

“It is encouraging to see some cities are beginning to innovate in this area – Cardiff City Council in partnership with nextbike and Pedal Power is trialling adapted cycles in their existing bike share scheme later this year,” said Burns. “We will be watching this closely and it would be great to see this rolled out across the UK. Electric bike hire is also on the rise and important in this area.”

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

Cycle training

“People participating in our research suggested that they wanted to build their confidence cycling – both in terms of cycling skills but also in terms of ‘fitting in’,” said Burns. “There is a perception that women, disabled people and older people tend not to cycle – social rides and seeing/hearing from women, older people and disabled people that already cycle is important to overcoming this.”

Most cycle training offered through the DfT Access Fund still tends to focus on cycling to education and work, notes Burns. “This ignores a lot of people, especially anyone who has retired. We would also recommend ensuring training and support is provided in conjunction with changes in the built environment, especially the creation of networks of protected space for cycling that provide safe attractive routes for people to use.”  

The report found that 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. 

Wheels for Wellbeing

Isabelle Clement, director of the charity Wheels for Wellbeing, told Local Transport Today: “As the representative voice of disabled cyclists we wholeheartedly welcome the work which Sustrans and Arup have done on this as it reflects our own campaign messages and look forward to working with them in getting tangible change on the ground.

“We must see disabled people represented and fully consulted at all stages of planning and designing our roads and public spaces; we must start seeing Inclusive design at the heart of the training of transport professionals; local and national governments must work harder at ensuring that inclusive design guidance and standards become the norm for cycling infrastructure and are properly enforced. Only then will the huge potential for disabled people to improve their physical and mental health through cycling and other active travel modes be realised.”

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