Government efforts to promote cycling have had almost no impact on a ‘sceptical’ population who largely view bikes as either children’s toys or the preserve of Lycra-clad hobbyists, a university study has found (Guardian).
The coalition has pledged more than £500m over five years on pro-cycling efforts. But the research, from Lancaster University, indicates these reach only the small proportion of people already interested in cycling, leaving others unmoved.
The study, which investigates why people in four towns or cities around England cycle – or, in the main, don’t cycle – is still being completed. The academics behind it will gather in Leicester shortly to present their preliminary findings.
Dave Horton, of Lancaster University, wrote in an interim assessment of the Understanding Walking and Cycling study: "Many people barely recognise the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transport; it is either a toy for children or a vehicle fit only for the poor and/or strange.
"For them, cycling is a bit embarrassing, they fail to see its purpose, and have no interest in integrating it into their lives, certainly on a regular basis."
The three-year project used questionnaires sent to a large numbers of households, as well as more in-depth studies about the everyday transport decisions made by dozens of families. Researchers spent three months each in Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester and Worcester.
A key finding was that the small numbers of people who do try cycling tend to be intimidated by overwhelmingly car-oriented urban layouts.
Dave Horton adds that even to experienced riders these often resemble “a dangerous obstacle course".
He added: "The minority of people who cycle in English cities tend to do so despite, not because of, existing conditions. Some people try cycling, but are quickly put off."
The study concludes that even training the young to ride safely achieves little while road conditions remain unfriendly. The only way to bring in mass cycling, the researchers argue, would be a series of hugely costly – and seemingly unlikely – measures to reshape towns and cities. Chief among these would be to build well-made, continuous, segregated cycle routes on all major urban roads and encourage people out of cars by restricting traffic speeds and parking.
Click here to read the full Guardian report.