Diversity in Cycling
A report compiled last month by TFL indicates that the capital's cycling population is becoming more diverse. Indeed, for the first time since records began, Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds were in the last 12 months not significantly less likely to have cycled – with just 28% of White Londoners saying they had cycled during this time, compared to 24% of Black Londoners, 25% of Asian Londoners and 31% of people from mixed backgrounds.
Where Persons of Colour accounted for just 15% of all cycle journeys in 2018, despite making up 41% of London’s population, they are now one of the fastest growing cycling demographics. The reason for this being the pandemic and its noted side effect of promoting cycling across society.
But while these improvements in diversity are promising, there is still work to be done – for example, only 20% of women surveyed said they had cycled in the past year, compared to 34% of men, and people on low incomes and the elderly were noticeably underrepresented.
The biggest barrier to cycling take-up (for people from all backgrounds and communities) is fear around “road conditions, aggressive driving [and] roads that are hostile’, with 82% of respondents saying it was the largest concern (and according to research from the University of Westminster and others on the Near Miss Project, it is particularly off-putting to women and People of Colour).
There are also issues of accessibility. For example, certain areas of London are lagging behind in the installation of lanes and safe bike storage and in the availability of training courses and bike hire schemes. Last month we spoke of another report, dubbed Micromobility in London, which likewise highlighted issues at the borough-level which meant that the uptake of micro-mobility was being hamstrung. For example, stopping rented e-scooters at local authority boundaries, if they even offered a scheme in the first place, was one such barrier.
Meanwhile, more female-centric cycling infrastructure is required, including well-lit bike lanes which are separated from traffic and which facilitate diverse journeys on outer-to-outer city routes. Moreover, additional attention needs to be paid on linking bike routes with other forms of transport, alongside secure bicycle parking.
Government investment can help address the structural issues at fault here, and there are promising initiatives already in place. For example, British Cycling will later this year open the UK’s first “City Academy” hubs – providing local children with cycling skills while improving visibility of cycling among more diverse communities, with a view to improve diversity in professional cycling.
Improving diversity in cycling is beneficial in other ways too, helping significantly with the current environmental issues we are facing. With large swathes of the population not cycling, and instead relying on polluting personal transport, there are more carbon emissions - meanwhile, the widespread uptake of bikes could reduce car use, subsequently cutting carbon emissions and improving air quality.
Making micro-mobility more accessible, through government-run schemes and removal of current inconsistencies in legislation, should therefore be a government priority.