A substantial shift in attitude towards planning for older mobility is required if cycling is to be embedded in the lives of an increasingly older population, according to researchers.
Led by Oxford Brookes University, cycle BOOM was a three-year study to understand how cycling affects independence, health and wellbeing among the older generation.
The aim was to advise and inform policy makers and practitioners how the environment and technology could be designed to help people to continue to cycle in older age, or to ‘reconnect’ with cycling.
The study, carried out between October 2013 and September 2016, concludes that the majority of the older population are reluctant to cycle because they regard it as dangerous.
The report says cycling often becomes more difficult for people as they get older because of an ageing body, ‘unsupportive built environment’ and technology that is ill adapted to their needs.
Despite this, the study suggests that cycling remains ‘desirable’ to a small but significant minority of older people who are managing to prolong their cycling under ‘specific circumstances of their choosing’.
The study also concludes that the rise in availability and popularity of e-bikes offers the potential to encourage a significant number of retired people to cycle.
Dr Tim Jones, reader at the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University, who led the study, said: “Our research demonstrated that older people who currently cycle, or who have tried cycling, recognise the positive benefits it can make to their health and wellbeing, however they find infrastructure in the UK generally unsupportive of their needs.
“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.
“Our study reinforced 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 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.”