Birmingham is one of the UK’s cities in receipt of Department for Transport money to improve cycling facilities (£17m).
Local Councillor Deirdre Alden has taken issue with the funding (which was announced last summer). As quoted by The Birmingham Post, Councillor Alden said: "The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men.
"[With few exceptions] most elderly people are not going to cycle, and it would be dangerous for them to start on our streets now. Women of any ethnic group who wish to wear modest clothing, and I count myself in that category, are not going to cycle. It is a discriminatory form of transport."
Sustrans points out that calling cycling discriminatory is baffling when the alternative is, let’s face it, expensive public transport or car use. If you’re on a budget, all you need is a bike and the running costs are comparitively tiny.
“Contrary to the comments made this week, the great thing about cycling is that it’s accessible for everyone, regardless of age, gender or background," said Sustrans regional director for the West Midlands Yvonne Gilligan.
“Cycling is an antidote to the discrimination that does exist in Birmingham’s transport system. With many people unable to afford the rising cost of car ownership and public transport, cycling can provide affordable access to jobs, health care and social services.
“The key to success is to bringing Birmingham’s infrastructure up to a standard where it safe and accessible enough for everyone aged 8 – 80 years old and the only way to achieve this is through dedicated and on-going investment in cycling.
“While many cyclists are young men, many of us are from backgrounds as diverse as the community we live in – it’s a great joy to see people of all shapes and sizes taking to the bike as we work towards a greener, healthier and safer city.”
Sustrans’ own East Birmingham Active Families & Communities project works to enable more people to cycle their everyday journeys. Helping debunk the Councillor’s claims, only 11 per cent of participants are white males aged 14-75, the remainder being "from a range of diverse backgrounds for whom cycling has become an integral part of their lives".
Sustrans has invited Councillor Alden to visit the project and meet the people involved.
It’s fair to say there has been some heated response on social media to the Councillor’s comments.