A new three-year research project starting in October 2013 will investigate ways in which people can be encouraged and helped to cycle in older age.
With £1.4 million in funding behind the research, the university's Senior Research Fellow of the Department of Planning Tim Jones will lead the study.
The goal of the research is to find out whether cycling could play a more significant contribution to the mobility, health and wellbeing of an ageing UK population.
Whilst cycling accounts for 23 per cent of all journeys for people aged 65 and older in the Netherlands, 15 per cent in Denmark and 9 per cent in Germany, it represents only 1 per cent of all journeys in the UK.
The research starts from the premise that there is currently a general absence in understanding on how the built environment and technology could be designed to support older people’s cycling needs and experiences.
The study will analyse the effects of the electric bike market's emergence, along with the development in cycling among the elderly in regions with well regarded infrastructure.
A novel mix of methods will be used to collect data with people approaching later life (aged 50-59) and in later life (60+) across the Bristol, Oxford, Reading and Cardiff areas.
Tim Jones said: “It is a common misconception that older people don’t cycle, or have no desire to do so. But having the option to ride a bicycle is a fantastic way of maintaining independence and community connections and in so doing potentially benefiting physical and mental health and wellbeing.
“The aim of this research is to better understand how built environment and technological design is shaping the willingness and ability of older people to cycle, their experiences of the built environment and ultimately how this affects wellbeing.”
The project is titled Promoting Independent Cycling for Enhancing Later Life Experience and Social Synergy through Design (PrICELESS Design) and is in collaboration with academics at University of Reading, University of West of England and Cardiff University. This is as part of a joint research council programme Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW), which involves three of the UK’s research councils.
Dr Emma Street, Lecturer in Real Estate and Planning, Henley Business School, University of Reading added: “A planned website will host an interactive toolkit based on older peoples' perception of how the towns and technologies could be designed to support and promote cycling amongst current and future older generations. We will be continually updating the website with video clips and news and findings as they come in and invite residents to contribute with their own experiences.”