A new user-led campaign is calling on the government to address the discrimination faced by disabled cyclists.
The charity Wheels for Wellbeing is calling for more understanding – among both authorities and the public – of the barriers disabled people encounter when using their cycles.
It says that many disabled cyclists use their vehicle as a mobility aid, but they are often penalised for doing so.
Research last year found that nearly half of disabled cyclists who use their vehicle as a mobility aid have been asked to dismount and walk or wheel their cycle, even when it might be impossible for them to do so.
Some have been threatened with fines or fixed penalty notices.
This often happens on footpaths and in “cyclists dismount” zones, but it can also take place in parks, shopping centres and at train stations.
The charity says this is because cycles are not legally recognised as mobility aids.
The new campaign – My Cycle, My Mobility Aid – is calling on the government to act.
It wants changes to The Use of Invalid Carriages on Highways Regulations 1988 to recognise the use of cycles as a mobility aid.
It also wants a change in the law to allow mobility scooters in cycle lanes, and the creation of Dutch-style “mobility lanes”, which would be open to bicycles, non-standard cycles and mobility scooters.
And it is suggesting a blue badge scheme for disabled cyclists, giving them certain rights and exemptions, as well as a badge that could be used to identify disabled people who use their cycle as a mobility aid.
The charity is also asking for revised guidance on pavement cycling – which currently suggests police officers should use their discretion when considering handing out fixed penalty notices for cycling on the pavement – that makes “explicit reference” to the needs of disabled cyclists.
One disabled cyclist, Phil, from Preston, said: “I use my bike as a sort of rolling walking stick when I walk and I can cycle very long distances without pain. I therefore class my bike as a mobility aid.
“However, it is very difficult to have this recognised in certain situations – for example in parks or other large outdoor venues. All they see is a bike.
“It would be so easy to modify a ‘no bikes’ rule to say ‘unless used as a mobility aid’.”
Another disabled cyclist said: “People tend to express the view that anyone fit enough to pedal a cycle cannot possibly be disabled.
“Disabled people are often considered as only those who are wheelchair-users.
“People are generally ignorant of the concept of a mobility aid – and the more so if it is a bike.”
Wheels for Wellbeing wants disabled cyclists to take part in a new social media campaign, using the hashtag #MyCycleMyMobilityAid, and send in their photographs and stories to raise the profile of the issue.
Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said: “Our research continues to show that most disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking, and use their cycle as a mobility aid.
“However, we are still finding that many disabled cyclists are being penalised for this.
“This is discriminatory and discourages disabled people from cycling, leading them to instead rely on mobility scooters or cars to get around – neither of which will help the government meet its aims on climate change or physical inactivity.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “While cycling provides the well-known benefits of being a cheaper and sustainable form of transport, bikes can be a lifeline for disabled people who use them as a mobility aid.
“As part of our Inclusive Transport Strategy we will be exploring the feasibility of amending legislation to recognise the use of cycles as a mobility aid.
“By doing so, we are making more locations that are accessible, and helping to increase the number of disabled people cycling.”
Pictured: One of the disabled cyclists backing the campaign
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