Education on eBikes could be key to unlocking cycling in older generation

New research commissioned by the Centre for Better Ageing and led by Sustrans has revealed that a greater level of education about what eBikes can offer 50 to 70 year olds has potential to unlock a demographic reluctant to cycle.

While the central factor to increased ridership remains consistent with other generations – that is safety and lack of infrastructure – the perception of physical fitness ranks highly as a barrier to more active travel in the study.

Alongside this, Sustrans found that there was a broad lack of understanding about what exactly electric bikes were, as well as the potential benefits. Furthermore, for those that did show some awareness the stubborn myth that riding one is “cheating” persisted and so they were unlikely to do so.

“I don’t know anybody who’s got an electric bike that I could borrow to try it out. That would be the ideal thing,” reads one piece of feedback from a 60-70 year old woman in the study, suggesting there is an appetite to discover how an e-Bike could benefit mobility into older age.

It was this 50 to 70 year-old female demographic that most commonly held the view that they did not possess the ability to cycle anymore. This translated to a general preference to walk, rather than cycle, though the reverse may be true for those with disabilities who found covering ground by walking difficult.

In the consideration of whether active travel trips were at all viable, the research pool stated a strong preference for amenities and workplaces being close enough to cycle easily. This presents an issue for those living in rural areas, compounded by the lack of available infrastructure to make journeys appealing.

In the face of 43% of those aged 65 to 74 not meeting Government guidelines for physical activity there is a challenge to persuade the 50 to 70 year old demographic to break the cycle of defaulting to car use.

“Among regular active travellers, the decision to walk or cycle is often not something they consciously think about but is part of their everyday routine. The ability to break or form habits is related to the ease and convenience of active travel versus other methods,” wrote the paper.

Contrary to increasing anxiety about the climate in younger demographics, the environmental benefits of active travel did not register highly in the Sustrans’ study.

Recommendations at the conclusion of the study are as follows:

*  Increase funding available within the Active Travel Fund framework to install safe and inviting infrastructure that is well lit and distinct in its separation. Painted bike lanes without protection is not sufficient to inspire confidence.

*  Opportunity to try schemes, in particular for eBikes, in order to introduce people unfamiliar to the assistance provided and exercise still offered.

*  Evaluation of effectiveness of interventions on different age groups

*  Encourage employers to provide a closed loop of facilities such as showering facilities and bike parking

*  Local Government should join the dots on infrastructure to neighbourhoods, ideally routing paths directly, but view low traffic areas, points of interest and green spaces.

*  Work to reduce reliance on cars through low-traffic neighbourhoods, thus making it more appealing to consider other active travel options.

*  Local Health providers should be able to provide personalised advice on active travel based on health conditions present

*  Local service providers and commissioners should seek to pilot affordable and accessible bike hire schemes, promoting the benefits of eBikes as part of the rollout

*  Role models should be brought in to market to 50 to 70 year olds, normalising a transition in behaviour.

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