Disabled cyclist advocate Wheels for Wellbeing has today launched a campaign to raise awareness of one of the biggest barriers to cycling faced by disabled people.
The ‘My Cycle, My Mobility Aid’ campaign aims to improve understanding amongst the public, policymakers and police of the fact that most disabled cyclists use their cycle as a mobility aid, but are often penalised for doing so.
It follows research carried out by Wheels for Wellbeing last year that showed nearly half of disabled cyclists who use their cycle as a mobility aid have been asked to dismount and walk or wheel their cycle, even when it might be physically impossible for them to do so. In some instances, disabled cyclists have even been threatened with fines or Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) when using their cycle in this way.
The lack of inclusion of disabled people as cyclists or potential cyclists was the topic of a paper co-authored by Dr Rachel Aldred, who has suggested extending interventions like ‘school streets’ to destinations frequently accessed by disabled and older people.
3/4 of disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking
According to Wheels for Wellbing’s latest annual survey, up to three-quarters of disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking, with the same proportion using their cycle as a mobility aid – just like a wheelchair or mobility scooter. However, of those who use a cycle as a mobility aid, nearly half have been asked to dismount and walk their cycle in areas where mobility scooters are allowed, but cycles and cycling are not. Typically, this means footways and ‘cyclists dismount’ zones, but it can also happen in parks, shopping centres and train concourses. This is because cycles are not legally recognised as a mobility aid, or ‘invalid carriage’ – despite often being used for this purpose – and so are not permitted in such areas.
“Inconsistent police practice adding to disabled cyclists’ anxiety”
As well as highlighting this injustice – and the barrier to active travel that such a policy creates – the campaign seeks to shed light on inconsistency in police understanding of the issue. For example, the same research revealed that 14% of disabled cyclists have been told they were allowed to cycle in a pedestrianised area once they had explained that they use their cycle as a mobility aid. And yet many continue to be penalised, with inconsistent police practice only adding to disabled cyclists’ anxiety, whilst serving to discourage more disabled people from taking up cycling and leading healthy, independent lifestyles.
It is in response to this lack of understanding that Wheels for Wellbeing has launched ‘My Cycle, My Mobility Aid’, which is in large part a public information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the mobility aid concept. Amongst other things, disabled cyclists are being encouraged to take part in a social media campaign, using the hashtag #MyCycleMyMobilityAid, and to send in photos and stories as ways of raising the profile of an issue that is only set to gain prominence given the growth of physical inactivity and an ageing population.
Isabelle Clement, Director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said: “Our research continues to show that most Disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking, and use their cycle as a mobility aid. However, we are still finding that many Disabled cyclists are being penalised for this. This is discriminatory and discourages Disabled people from cycling, leading them to instead rely on mobility scooters or cars to get around – neither of which will help the Government meet its aims on climate change or physical inactivity. We are therefore calling on the Government to make changes to legislation so that cycles are recognised as a mobility aid, and put on a par with mobility scooters. Our new campaign will help raise public awareness of an issue whose importance is set to increase as we search for solutions to the physical inactivity and climate crises.”
The campaign launches ahead of Purple Tuesday, a day set aside to highlight the huge consumer spending power of disabled customers and their families, designed to encourage businesses to be more accessible, both online and in physical terms.