©2017, Jonathan Bewley/ Sustrans

New report shows “large unmet demand” for cycling from ethnic minority and disadvantaged groups

Cycling for Everyone, a new report by Sustrans and Arup, has highlighted the inequalities within cycling participation in urban areas between different demographics, including those from ethnic minority groups, women, disabled people, older people and those at greater risk of deprivation.

COVID-19 has brought to light many disparities within society, with people from ethnic minority groups and other disadvantaged communities being disproportionately affected by the pandemic and over-represented within the key worker sector.

The recognition from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that obesity can increase the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 has prompted a new Government Obesity Strategy.

While cycling has increased during the pandemic, 74% of people from ethnic minority groups living in cities and towns do not currently cycle. Despite low participation levels, the report found 55% of people from ethnic minority groups who do not currently cycle would like to start. The report finds that the transport sector is “not doing enough” to address the barriers people from ethnic minority groups and other disadvantaged communities face.

The report highlights a lack of confidence, security, as well as the financial outlay of purchasing a cycle as being some of the barriers that are more likely to prevent those from ethnic minority groups and other disadvantaged communities from cycling:

– A third (33%) of people from ethnic minority groups were not confident in their cycling skills
– 25% of people from ethnic minority groups stated that a lack of facilities at home or work (e.g. secure cycle storage) was a barrier to cycling
– 20% of people from ethnic minority groups stated the cost of a suitable cycle stopped them from cycling

©2017, Jonathan Bewley/ Sustrans

In order to address these barriers, the report highlights recommendations which aim to help to work towards reducing inequalities within cycling.

While challenges exist between different demographic groups, including between different ethnic minority groups, the report finds many of the barriers to increasing diversity in cycling are shared.

Key recommendations highlighted in the report include an extension of the UK Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme to include those in low-income jobs, as well as support to those not in employment, to ensure that cost is not a barrier for anyone looking to purchase a cycle.

The report also urges the need for improvements in secure cycle storage in residential areas, and particularly for flats and high-rise buildings where storing a cycle inside may prove challenging. To improve confidence free cycle training needs to be provided to all children and adults, and cycling infrastructure expanded to reach areas where transport options are poor and high traffic levels exist.

“This report brings to light that for too long, the needs of so many have been ignored within cycle planning and development,” said Daisy Narayanan, director of urbanism at Sustrans.

“In order to work towards real change and make cycling more inclusive, we call upon the industry, local authorities and central government to welcome and support all people to cycle. It is only when we move away from exclusively designing towns and cities for those who already have access to move through spaces with ease, can we really create equitable places to live and work.”

Susan Claris, global active travel leader, Arup, added: “The health, wellbeing and social benefits of cycling in our towns and cities are clear. But these benefits are not equally felt by everyone, and we need to do more to ensure that cycling truly is accessible for all.

“This guidance supports a move away from designing cities for people who already cycle, or have power and privilege, and instead to use our collective skills, expertise and ambition as a sector to start designing cycling for everyone.”

Jools Walker, author of ‘Back in the Frame’ and cycling blogger said: “If widening participation and improving planning for more marginalised groups to get into cycling is a goal, then all of these voices need to be given the platform to be heard, ensuring that the decisions made are rounded, informed and of course, genuinely representative.

“There has to be a significant shake-up within this sector if we’re going to change it. It’s a huge step to admit that you’ve ‘got it wrong’ in the past, but I challenge the transport sector to do more.”

Abiir Shirdoon, ©2019, Jonathan Bewley/ Sustrans

Abiir Shirdoon, cycle instructor, Life Cycle UK, said: “I learnt to ride a bike as a child but stopped when I was about 12 and didn’t start again until I was living in Bristol as an adult. I joined in with a Kiddical Mass ride, aimed at giving mums the confidence to ride with their children, and from there I haven’t looked back.

“I cycle everywhere I go, as it’s so much easier to get around the city by bike than by any other means. Public transport is expensive, is often too full and isn’t always reliable. I did consider getting a car, but when I started cycling I realised that it wasn’t necessary in Bristol. There are so many cycle paths, so if you have the confidence it’s possible to get around without driving.

“I trained as a cycle instructor with Life Cycle UK in 2018. I work in schools to help children gain confidence on their bikes using the Bikeability programme. My goal is to work with women too, to encourage them to ride more. I don’t see many women like me riding bikes in Bristol and I think that is due to confidence and self-consciousness. I want to help other women realise that they can ride a bike and no one will stare. By training other people to feel confident on a bike, I feel like I can do something small to help them change their lives for the better.”

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