The UK isn’t doing enough to support older cyclists, says new study

A new three-year study from Oxford Brookes University, which set out to investigate how older people in the UK experience cycling and how this affects independence, health and wellbeing, has found that Britain is lagging behind European countries.

The cycle BOOM study led by Oxford Brookes University involved 240 participants across Oxford, Bristol, Reading and Cardiff. These were a mix of non-cyclists, current cyclists and also a group of older cyclists who wished to re-engage with the sport after a break.

The older cyclists took part in an eight-week ‘cycling and wellbeing’ trial designed to investigate their experience and measure the impact on their mental and physical health.

Results from the trial showed that cycling has the potential to improve physical and mental health in the older population, however, participants reported that a number of factors including poor infrastructure and fear of injury from other traffic had negative impacts on their experiences.

Dr Tim Jones, reader at the School of the Built Environment, Oxford Brookes University said: “Our research has demonstrated that older people who currently cycle, or who have tried cycling, recognise the positive benefits it can make to their health and wellbeing.

“However, they find that infrastructure in the UK is generally unsupportive of their needs and the small minority who do cycle, who we classify as ‘resilient riders’ use various coping strategies to deal with declining capabilities and road danger. This includes timing their rides to avoid peak periods, riding away from motor traffic, adapting cycles, and even riding on the pavement.

“While the issues highlighted are relevant to all cyclists, they are more acutely felt in an aging cohort as capabilities change and previously easy activities become more difficult. The way our towns and cities are designed, as well as cycle technology, needs to consider the diverging capabilities of different users, if cycling is to be embedded in the lives of an increasingly older population.”

A report based on the findings is being presented at conferences later this week in London and Manchester.

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