Adaptive Cycling: Is Enough Being Done?

Cycling in the UK -

Adaptive Cycling: Is Enough Being Done?

Cycling numbers have exploded by almost 20% since the pandemic and many newcomers to the activity are making the most of the benefits of active travel, as well as of new measures like the Government-designated, bicycle-friendly Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. 

While this a promising trend, safety still remains a significant issue and we have mentioned previously the problems that have befallen schemes like the LTNs. However, there are other large barriers that are worth highlighting. Back in December, we illuminated the relative disparity between white and minority citizens because of structural problems in the promotion of cycling in the community. Today we are delving into other areas where British cycling is coming up short, particularly amongst adaptive cyclists.

For those who use tandems, handcycles, trikes, etc., the current cycle lane infrastructure, while having greatly expanded over the past few years, is still designed with conventional bicycles in mind. For example, where lanes have physical barriers (to control livestock and stop motorbikes riding down them), these prevent adaptive cyclists from using them, putting limits on where they can go, explore and exercise. Neither are they conducive to social distancing or a particularly inviting installation.

But it’s not just cycle paths which pose a problem. Access to adaptive cycles is also challenging, as typically these are expensive, costing anywhere from £500 to £5,000, and are often not readily available to try out. In 2019 the Government tried to address this by publishing new guidance on the Cycle to Work scheme, which removed the £1,000 cap to make it easier for people to access adaptive cycles and e-cycles. However, removing the loan cap is not the whole solution as there other concerns, like training, storage and people to ride with, with adaptive cycles still seen as a bit of a novelty.

Thankfully, there are initiatives in place to tackle these issues of accessibility. For example, Sustrans’s Paths for Everyone, looks to remove physical barriers on sections of cycle paths, having already removed over 300 barriers as well as improving road surface quality. Likewise, Wheels for All, also known as Cycling Projects, looks to promote inclusive cycling through a range of community engagement programmes which give people the chance to cycle on a regular basis, and We Ride Together promotes people accompanying others on rides to share their passion for cycling and create a more inclusive environment. 

Indeed, as bikes in general become a more popular method of transport and the demand for more cycle lanes increases, the expansion of infrastructure will naturally begin to accommodate for adaptive bikes. Furthermore, with the rise of electric bikes, electrically-assisted handcycles are another tool for improving inclusivity, making it far easier for those with difficulties to explore wild and remote places that they otherwise might not be able to get to, and to keep up with other cyclists, such as this ARCC customer with their pod-equipped recumbent.

There is clearly more work to be done to make cycling more inclusive, but initiatives such as those above are helping the industry to move in the right direction.

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