In this month’s column for retailers, in partnership with trade association the ACT, campaigns and policy manager at charity Wheels for Wellbeing Kay Inckle explores how bike shops can be inclusive and increase their customer base
This piece first appeared in the September edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Disabled people are not often associated with cycling, and bike shops might not expect their
customers to be disabled. However, for many disabled people cycling is easier than walking or wheelchair-propulsion, and can be essential for disabled people’s mobility and health.
For people with conditions that affect, for example, joints, spine, weight-bearing or energy levels, cycling is often a fast and pain-free way to get around and make essential journeys.
However, many disabled cyclists are invisible as disabled people because they ride a standard two-wheeled bicycle, perhaps with some discrete adaptations to pedals, grips or brake levers. E-cycles enable many more people who are disabled, older, or who have long-term health conditions, to cycle.
Other disabled cyclists ride a range of ‘non-standard’ cycles such as tricycles, recumbents, tandems or handcycles – often with e-assist.
Cyclist with disabilities, visible or not, face significant barriers to cycling. These include the cost of non-standard cycles or adaptations to bikes, alongside difficulty in finding bike shops that are accessible and will maintain and repair their cycle.
Recent Government policies that promote cycling, such as Gear Change, have started to tackle some of the wider barriers that disabled cyclists face like poor quality infrastructure, but there is still much to be done.
Bike shops can play a crucial role here – and it’s important to remember that disabled people and their friends and family have significant spending power: disability support organisation Purple estimates this to be a total of £274 billion per year in the UK.
And to highlight that, nationwide high street shops lose £267 million per month because they are not accessible or provide poor service to disabled people. So being accessible for disabled cyclists is good for business, as well as good for cycling and saving the planet!
Here are some simple things that can make a bike shop more accessible for disabled cyclists:
– Step-free or ramped access into the shop
– An automatic door and/or a doorbell to call for assistance with getting the cycle into the shop
– A clear pathway around the doorway into the shop
– Seating for customers
– A collection and delivery service for those who are unable to push a broken cycle to the shop or lift it into a car
– Being familiar with adaptations to bikes and/or non-standard cycles, such as adaptations to pedals, grips, brake levers etc.
– Learning about maintenance and repair for non-standard cycles such as trikes, recumbents, tandems and handcycles – many of which use standard bicycle parts configured in different ways
– Learning to fix e-cycles – this also makes good business sense given the recent Government funding schemes that are promoting e-bikes and e-cycles across the population
As part of promoting inclusivity, the ACT highlights how retail finance can provide the perfect solution for the increased cost of non-standard cycles (used by disabled people). It allows customers to spread the cost to get the products, clothes and accessories they want, when they want.