Cycling & wellbeing study calls for support of growing e-bike market
4th November, 2016 in Electric bike news.
Oxford Brookes University led a three-year study into supporting and prolonging cycling among the UK’s older population, the key recommendations of which have just been published.
A representative for the University said: “The research has found that older people who currently cycle, or who have tried cycling, recognise the positive benefits it can make to their health, however they find infrastructure in the UK generally unsupportive of their needs.”
The study involved participants from Oxford, Bristol, Reading and Cardiff taking part in an eight-week ‘cycling and wellbeing’ trial involving electric bikes. The group pledged to cycle for at least half an hour, three times a week. Participants were made up of those currently cycling, non-cyclists as well as a group of people who wished to take up cycling again after a break.
Study participants were asked to keep a diary during the trial, as well as complete a survey several months later to see if they had continued to cycle. Around two thirds of the group thought their wellbeing had improved and that they had become more physically active. On average each participant made 30 separate journeys, with many cycling more than the required 90 minutes each weeks and going on to purchase an e-bike once the trial period ended.
Key recommendations from the study include promoting the benefits of e-biking and working with the government to improve affordability with incentives (tax benefits and battery replacement schemes).
Perhaps unsurprisingly however, although cycling has the potential to improve physical as well as mental health, those on the trial felt the road infrastructure in the UK was generally unsupportive of their needs and lagging behind other European countries.
One person on the trial, described as in her fifties, mentioned a lack of a continuous, dedicated cycle path in her urban area: “It’s not like driving, when you’ve always got a lane.. sometimes you’ve got a cycle lane, sometimes you’re among the traffic and sometimes you’re in a dangerous spot in the middle of the road.”
Other cyclists, noted as ‘resilient riders’ by the study, used other strategies to cope with declining capabilities, such as avoiding peak traffic periods, keeping away from motor traffic as much as possible, adapting their bikes and even riding on the pavement. Some purchased high-visibility clothing and handlebar-mounted mirrors.
Dr Tim Jones of Oxford Brookes University said: “While the issues highlighted are relevant to all cyclists, they are more acutely felt in an ageing cohort as capabilities change and previously easy activities become more difficult. The way our towns and cities are designed, as well as cycle technology, needs to consider the diverging capabilities of different users, if cycling is to be embedded in the lives of an increasingly older population.”
The study concludes by adding to the calls for a more dedicated infrastructure for cyclists across the UK’s towns and cities, saying that a “series of recommendations have been presented to policy makers, and more specifically planners, engineers and designers, health promoters and the cycle industry on the part they could play in supporting older cycling as part of a broad, age-friendly city agenda.”
Dr Jones added: “Our study reinforces the need for cities to plough ahead and create a dedicated infrastructure for cycling along major roads, implement slower speed zones and support the growing market of electric bikes. Interventions targeted at promoting older cycling will not only support healthy ageing, but it will also support younger cycling and help address the pressing issue of low levels of fitness and growing levels of obesity amongst the nation’s younger population.” READ MORE...
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