Don’t assume disabled people aren’t interested in cycling – or in proper bike lanes
Isabelle Clement is the director of Wheels for Wellbeing
Tuesday 26 April 2016 07.00 BST
Objectors to new bike routes in London and elsewhere often cite the needs of people with disabilities. They’ve missed the point
Whenever bike infrastructure is debated, it’s never very long before someone objects by saying: “But what happens to people with disabilities if you build cycle lanes?” They have forgotten one very important thing: a lot of disabled people cycle, and benefit even more than most from quick, safe cycle routes.
Such arguments are seen around the country, but are particularly prominent right now in London, with a new mayor being elected next week, and where objectors to proposed cycle superhighways say these will harm disabled people, “who are reliant on their cars”.
They, and others, simply assume disabled people cannot and do not cycle, meaning cyclists and disabled people have opposing needs and agendas. But the premise is wrong.
By Transport for London’s own reckoning, around 15% of disabled people in London actively cycled for transport in 2014, compared to 18% of non-disabled people.
By this measure, you could be forgiven for thinking that disabled cyclists must be well represented in London’s cycling policy. But here you would also be wrong.
If Boris Johnson’s 2013 Vision for Cycling is anything to go by, it is clear that much more needs to be done to improve the visibility of London’s disabled cycling community. Visual images representing cyclists often depict competition and sport rather than mobility, utility and transport, and fail to include the variety of trikes, handbikes, tandems and tag-alongs which can make cycling a possibility whatever your impairment. The mayor’s follow-up document last month, Human Streets, showed little change on this.
We had a little jig in the Wheels for Wellbeing office, however, when we read in the recently published Department for Transport’s draft cycling and walking investment strategy.
“We will also work to increase awareness of the use of cycles as a mobility aid,” it said. Things might at last be starting to get through, and high time too.