Wheels for Wellbeing has today launched a campaign to raise awareness of one of the ‘biggest barriers’ to cycling faced by disabled people.
The campaign, called ‘My Cycle, My Mobility Aid’, aims to improve understanding amongst the public, policymakers and police of the fact that most disabled cyclists use their cycle as a mobility aid, but are often penalised for doing so.
It follows research carried out by Wheels for Wellbeing last year that showed nearly half of disabled cyclists who use their cycle as a mobility aid have been asked to dismount and walk or wheel their cycle, even when it might be physically impossible for them to do so. In some instances, disabled cyclists have even been threatened with fines or Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) when using their cycle in this way, the charity has said.
According to the cycling charity’s latest annual survey, up to three-quarters of disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking, with the same proportion using their cycle as a mobility aid, like a wheelchair or mobility scooter.
However, of those who use a cycle as a mobility aid, nearly half have been asked to dismount and walk their cycle in areas where mobility scooters are allowed, but cycles and cycling are not. Typically, this means footways and ‘cyclists dismount’ zones, but it can also happen in parks, shopping centres and train concourses. This is because cycles are not legally recognised as a mobility aid, or ‘invalid carriage’.
The campaign is also seeking to shed light on ‘inconsistency in the police understanding of the issue’. For example, the same research revealed that 14% of disabled cyclists have been told they were allowed to cycle in a pedestrianised area once they had explained that they use their cycle as a mobility aid.
‘My Cycle, My Mobility Aid’ is in large part a public information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the mobility aid concept. Amongst other things, disabled cyclists are being encouraged to take part in a social media campaign, using the hashtag #MyCycleMyMobilityAid, and to send in photos and stories.
Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said: “Our research continues to show that most disabled cyclists find cycling easier than walking, and use their cycle as a mobility aid.
“However, we are still finding that many disabled cyclists are being penalised for this. This is discriminatory and discourages disabled people from cycling, leading them to instead rely on mobility scooters or cars to get around – neither of which will help the Government meet its aims on climate change or physical inactivity.
“We are therefore calling on the Government to make changes to legislation so that cycles are recognised as a mobility aid, and put on a par with mobility scooters.
“Our new campaign will help raise public awareness of an issue whose importance is set to increase as we search for solutions to the physical inactivity and climate crises.”
Roger Geffen, Cycling UK policy director, said: “It’s a common misconception that disabled people don’t cycle. The reality is that people with all sorts of disabilities can and do cycle, often finding it easier than walking. Cycling offers them independence and health benefits that they would not get from using a mobility scooter.
“Yet they often face being penalised for this choice. Changing the law to treat cycles as mobility aids would end this injustice, enabling them to use shopping malls, pedestrianised areas and public transport without fear of unjust harassment simply for wanting to get around under their own steam.”