Barriers to cycling - it shouldn't be just for the fit and the brave

Ride leader Claire negotiating the first of many barriers
Since she’s been been back on her bike, CTC’s Suzanne Forup has noticed more barriers to cycling - and to just getting out of the house - than she ever did in her carefree/child-free days..

Getting on a bike, off a train and onto a cycle path used to be non-events. Now, with a toddler in tow, they can require careful planning, the kindness of strangers and good upper body strength. Like anyone who has tried to negotiate the London Underground with a small child, a push-chair and a large bag, it’s given me a small insight into the world that people with more significant mobility issues face on a daily basis.

Take last weekend: I was deliciously child-free, leading a Belles on Bikes Falkirk ride along with some of the Edinburgh Belles. We were using the fantastic canal path routes around Falkirk to explore Helix Park and get up close to the magnificent Kelpies. We were all riding solo bikes - two wheelers, not tandems or trikes - but still noted the difficulties in getting 11 cyclists through the cycle path barriers. Could we have got through with my son in his trailer or the Belle that uses a tandem with her sighted pilot? Probably not without dislodging the occupants and heaving the trailer or tandem over the barrier.

We certainly wouldn’t have got a tricycle through, let alone a larger adapted cycle. I tweeted out this concern and a local hand-cyclist responded, highlighting her struggles with steps and gates along the same section. A quick search online uncovered a couple of pages' worth of ‘barriers’ on the CycleStreets site, many on canal paths which can be otherwise suitable for all ability cycling.

No-one should have to cycle in a group because they can’t negotiate the physical barriers to accessing a path alone." Suzanne Forup, CTC Cycling Development Officer for Scotland

I realise that these barriers are probably in place to prevent vehicles accessing the paths, but are there better solutions that combine access with prevention of inappropriate use? I like to cycle with others but no-one should have to cycle in a group because they can’t negotiate the physical barriers to accessing a path alone.

Jayne Rodgers, CTC’s Inclusive Cycling Officer for the North West, spoke about these issues at the Women’s Cycle Forum I co-organised in Edinburgh in June. She highlighted tolerance as a key issue, but for me it’s about equity. We need to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of cycling, not just the ‘fit and the brave’ or the independently mobile.

I’m right at the start of my learning journey about all-ability cycling, but after a recent meeting with Blazing Saddles (an all-ability cycling project run by FABB Scotland), I have a feeling I’ll be learning a lot more quite soon.