OLDER people in Oxford are being given the chance to shape the future of cycling in British cities as part of a new study at Oxford Brookes University.

The cycle BOOM project is searching for volunteers aged 50 or above who are willing to cycle for a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week for eight weeks on either a pedal bike or electric bike.

The impact on their fitness and wellbeing will be recorded and the results will help national policy makers make it easier for older people to cycle in cities across the country.

Ten riders from the Oxford area will take part using their own pedal bikes and another ten will be loaned an electric bike.

Brian Hook, 82, of Abingdon, is one of the participants who will take up the electric option.

The retired council worker, who has been cycling since he was three, said: “I think traffic and so on puts a lot of older people off cycling.

“Traffic doesn’t bother me so much because I’ve been cycling for so long but I think it discourages people in their 60s and up from taking it up.

“The problem in Oxford is the current roads aren’t built for pavements and therefore the pavements are narrow and not suitable for cycle paths.

“Sometimes you’re going along a cycle path and you reach a dangerous part of road and it just disappears.”

Senior researcher at Brookes’ department of planning Dr Ben Spencer said:“The participants in our trial will take tests of their wellbeing at the beginning of the eight weeks and they will repeat them at the end to see how cycling has benefited them.

“They’ll also keep a diary of their experiences of cycling and how they affect their willingness to get on a bike.

“This will advise us on how the places we live and technologies we use could be designed to encourage older people to cycle.”

Participants in the study get free cycle training and a free bike check, with the cost of basic repairs also covered by Brookes.

While taking part in the study they have to carry a GPS tracker with them to show where they have been and for how long.

Dr Spencer said: “Cycling is very important for older people because it not only has an effect on their health but there is also a theory it gives them more independence.

“It lets them get out and about and can be a social activity with their friends.

“We want to find out how we can better design our towns to make it easier for them to cycle, something becoming increasingly important with our ageing population.”

To take part visit cycleboom.org

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