Sustrans highlights 'systematic barriers' to cycling


A cycling and walking charity has warned that women and older and disabled people ‘continue to be neglected in cycling’, despite anti-discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010.


A report on ‘Inclusive cycling in towns and cities’, published by Sustrans and infrastructure firm Arup, reveals that while an estimated 84% of disabled people living in the UK’s biggest cities never cycle for local journeys, one third (33%) say they would like to start cycling.

Sustrans said this 'significant interest in everyday' cycling is mirrored among other demographic groups, including women (32%) and people over 65 years old (15%).

It said 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

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.’

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.

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

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

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