CYCLING can play a significant role in promoting health and wellbeing among the population. However, there’s a noticeable absence of younger and older people cycling on UK streets.

For example, only one per cent of all journeys by people age 65 and above in the UK is by cycle compared to nine per cent in Germany.

This raises questions as to whether cycle planning and promotion as it currently conceived is inclusive.

The cycle BOOM study I led at Oxford Brookes University set out to investigate how older people in the UK experience cycling and how this affects independence, health and wellbeing.

We involved 240 people aged 50 and over with different levels of cycling experience from across four cities – Oxford, Bristol, Reading and Cardiff.

Participants were made up of non-cyclists, those who currently cycled or ‘resilient riders’, and ‘re-engaged riders’ who wished to try cycling again after a significant break sometimes stretching back to childhood or early adult life.

We followed resilient riders on their regular journeys and talked to them about their experience.

The re-engaged riders took part in an eight-week ‘cycling and wellbeing’ trial where we loaned them a pedal cycle and an e-bike asked them to keep a diary of their experience.

We also measured the impact on their physical and mental health before and after taking part.

What our results showed is that cycling improved physical and mental health among re-engaged riders but that cycling was ‘partial’, that is, it was predominantly performed in pleasant surroundings away from motor traffic, for example, along green corridors.

Our resilient riders demonstrated that everyday cycling requires tremendous physical and emotional labour; and willingness and ability to develop resilience to the traffic conditions.

Strategies included timing journeys so that they took place outside of peak periods and also riding on pavements in situations where they did not feel safe.

Common to all riders with different levels of experience was the view that decreasing capabilities as they got older, coupled with poor and unsupportive infrastructure, and fear of injury from other traffic, had a negative impact on their cycling experience.

In the case of Oxford, the study revealed that, despite being perceived as one of the UK’s ‘cycling cities’, relative to northern European cities, there is still much more to be done to create the level infrastructure required to support safe, pleasant and more inclusive cycling.

Our report sets out how this could be achieved as part of an Age Friendly City agenda.

This includes provision of high quality protected cycle lanes on all arterial routes into the city.

You can find out more by visiting where you can access our report and a series of videos of participants from our study.