Cycling is undergoing a Boom. But what about the older population?
Cycling can contribute to physical and mental health and wellbeing among an ageing UK population. For example, by providing a means of engaging with the outdoor environment for recreation and relaxation, as well as a way of accomplishing everyday activities such as visiting friends or going to the shops.
But did you know that cycling accounts for only 1 per cent of all journeys amongst people aged 65 and older in the UK compared to 23 per cent in the Netherlands, 15 per cent in Denmark and 9 per cent in Germany?
Some people adapt to changing physical circumstances and continue to cycle in older age, but for many people in the UK, cycling becomes more physically challenging and the risks associated with riding a bicycle in a less than supportive environment force many to stop for fear of injury. Programmes across the UK to promote cycling, such as improvements to cycle paths, provision of cycle training and promotional events, together with the growth in availability of assistive technologies such as electric bicycles (‘e-bikes’), could be helping to reverse this trend.
cycle BOOM was a study to understand cycling among the older population and how this affects independence, health and wellbeing. The ultimate aim was to advise policy makers and practitioners (e.g. planners, architects, engineers and designers) how our environment and technology could be designed to help people to continue to cycle in older age or to reconnect with cycling.
The project ran from October 2013 to September 2016 and involved researchers at Oxford Brookes University, Cardiff University, University of Reading and University of West of England (Bristol).
We developed a toolkit in the form of a final report, and briefing notes, which highlight the ways that policy makers, practitioners (such as engineers, designer, planners and architects) and industry can support older people’s cycling through design. We also produced a suite of short documentary films which provide an illustration of how design and social practices affect cycling mobility and wellbeing among older people and the implications in terms of creating age-friendly cities.