Far more disabled people in England and Wales cycle to work than previously thought, but those planning transport and infrastructure improvements must do more to take their access needs into account, say campaigners.
They spoke out after new research revealed that about one in 20 cycling commuters is a disabled person, despite the barriers they face.
The data – taken from the 2011 census – was analysed by Dr Rachel Aldred, senior lecturer in transport at Westminster University in London, and shows that disabled people are only about 25 per cent less likely to cycle to work than non-disabled people.
The proportion of disabled people who cycle to work ranges from 0.2 per cent to 25.9 per cent across all English and Welsh local authorities.
Aldred concluded that more work needed to be done to explore the needs of disabled cyclists and how to overcome access barriers to cycling.
She said: “We need more data on the needs of different groups, and on how policy might overcome specific barriers to cycling that may contribute to disabled people’s lower propensity to cycle (from infrastructural barriers to the high cost of some adapted cycles).”
And she suggested that the figures could even under-estimate the number of disabled cyclists, because the relevant census question refers only to commuting by “bicycle”, rather than including trikes and handcycles.
Aldred said: “The results confirm that transport policy and research should cover planning for inclusive cycling, in the same way that research and policy addresses issues of public transport accessibility and provision for disabled car-users.”
Funding for the release of the new figures came from the charity Wheels for Wellbeing, which wants to see standards and guidance developed “so all cycling infrastructure in the future is inclusive of all cyclists as a matter of course”.
Wheels for Wellbeing supports people in south London to enjoy the benefits of cycling, “regardless of any physical or mental barriers they may experience”.
Isabelle Clement, the charity’s director, who uses equipment that allows her to turn her own wheelchair into a handcycle, said: “We find that most people believe disabled people don’t cycle. This census data puts this misconception to rest.”
She added: “Many disabled people cycle with impairments which are not visible as they whizz past.
“In fact, many people use their cycle as a mobility aid. It does not make them less disabled and it is crucial that transport planners, cycle infrastructure designers, etc, take the needs of disabled cyclists into account.
“I handcycle to work. I am lucky to be able to take my cycle all the way into my office but many who cycle non-standard cycles are stopped from cycling by the lack of secure cycle parking at their destination for their bike, trike or handcycle, not by their impairment.”
Many disabled people miss out on the health and well-being boost cycling can provide because of the “misconception that cycling is not possible” for them, she added.
2 December 2014