Fairness, and everyday cycling for people with additional needs

Riding a trike in a park environment - but what about access to the 'real' world?
Thanks to Katja Leyendecker, I recently became aware of the 2011 report produced by the Sustainable Development Commission and what is has to say on the subject of children, older people and those with additional needs with regard to access to cycling,

Whilst checking out my tweets this morning, I came across one from KatsDekker and it led me to the Sustainable Development Commission's report on Fairness in a car dependent society. It made for interesting reading, not least for its comments on the effect a car dependent society may have on older people, children and people with additional personal mobility needs.

The ICC officers across England work with over 40 inclusive cycling centres and Cycling Projects works to set up and sustain even more, plus there are others that operate across the UK that are not yet part of any affiliated network. These centres work hard, often manned by volunteers, to help people of all abilities to get the support and assistance they need to enjoy cycling. Part of my role is to encourage the centres I work with to think about progression and the potential for participants to use the two-wheeled or adaptive cycles as part of everyday or independent travel.

A vital part of any progression planning is the input of the parents and carers, as well as the individual rider and staff at the centre. One of the most common concerns I hear relates to the confidence of the participants to manage the busy and traffic-filled world outside of the athletics stadium, park, sports hall, school playground, and the other community or leisure environment in which the centres operate. This is a very real shame and a huge lost opportunity because as the report says:

"Cycling is actually more accessible to those with disabilities than is perhaps commonly realised. In the Netherlands it is not uncommon to see older people cycling who are unable to walk without the aid of a stick......Tricycles can be used by those with balance problems, debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis and polio, or stroke victims and those with spinal cord injuries. Specially adapted cycles or hand-cycles can be used by those with missing or non-functional limbs. Even the blind and partially-sighted can enjoy cycling on a tandem with a sighted partner" (pg. 54)

"While not everyone with a disability will be able to cycle for everyday journeys...... many people could benefit both physically and mentally from the opportunities that these bicycles ..offer."

People with disabilities are using two-wheel and adaptive bikes every day, all over the UK, to enjoy cycling. However, in most cases, they and their parents or carers would be very uneasy about making the transition to everyday cycling. Many of these concerns would be alleviated through the provision of space for truly inclusive cycling to take place. Such space would be to the benefit of many different people in society who would then perhaps feel empowered to take up everyday cycling. As the report points out:

"Environments that are safe and attractive for journeys made by foot or by bike are by their nature inclusive for all sections of society. They allow children to start making journeys independently at an earlier age. They are safer and better for those with disabilities, even those who are themselves unable to walk or cycle. They allow older people to continue to get about independently, even if they have had to stop driving." (pg. 54)

If you are interested in discussing these issues further, I'll be at the CTC/Cyclenation national conference on 22 November at Lambeth Town Hall, showcasing some of the centres we work with and taking part in the workshop discussion on inclusivity and cycling.