Cycle Industry News)
Mark Sutton15 January, 2018
What has the cycle trade really got to do to grow the pie? Portraying cycling as an accessible activity for all could be an important start, writes transport researcher Dr Rachel Aldred, who is keen to see more from the cycling industry aimed at under-served demographics…
In the UK we don’t cycle much by European standards – around 1-2% of all trips, and around 3% of commutes. The market’s much smaller than it could be.
It’s also demographically skewed. Looking at people doing any cycling in a month (via the English Active People Survey) women are half as likely to cycle as men, adults aged 60+ are half as likely to cycle as younger people, non-white people are half as likely to cycle as white people, and disabled people are half as likely to cycle as non-disabled people.
These inequalities are often taken for granted by planners. The ‘cyclist’ in consultation and promotional documents is rarely an older woman riding with her grandkids, rarely a disabled person using a handcycle. Research I’ve carried out with charity Wheels for Wellbeing found most London borough transport and cycling strategies paid little attention to the needs of disabled cyclists, and did not represent disabled cyclists in imagery.
This matters. The grandmother, the disabled person, will see those representations of cycling as excluding someone like them. They may even look at the picture of the ‘cyclist’ and see him (it’s usually him) as a threat, imagining him bearing down on them at 25mph. Similarly the planners themselves assume they’re planning for low numbers, and for the fit and the fearless. We’ll never get to cycling normality (10%, 15%, 20% of trips) while most people see cycling as a sport for a subset of strangely dressed men, rather than how people like them, their mum and their grandma, go shopping.
Transport authorities have started using images to better represent the diversity of cyclists we’d like to have. But how do we get that diversity – on the streets, not just on the posters?
To follow Rachel’s work, catch her on Twitter here.