Older riders: why they love cycling
By Emily Kerr
Emily is Oxford City Councillor for St Mary’s Ward
In the UK, just 1% of journeys by adults age 65+ are by bicycle. But in Holland, it’s a quarter. Many older people love cycling: for health, convenience and enjoyment – and we know that in Oxford, around a quarter of Cyclox members are over 65. For this two-part series, I interviewed several people in their 70s, 80s and 90s about why they love cycling in Oxford – and how we can help more people do it.
Hubert getting from A to B
Hubert, 92, lives in Marston. He’s cycled all over the world, in Uganda and Bangkok, Bhutan and the Solomon Islands.
“I’ve always used a bicycle whenever possible, because it’s the most practical form of transport in many cities. It’s predictable as you don’t get stuck in traffic, you get to see the city, and it keeps you fit. I’ve never been a sports cyclist, I just think cycling is often the best way to get from A to B.”
After spending 14 years in Holland, where he “lived on a bicycle”, Hubert is now mostly in Oxford, where he finds cycling gives him independence.
“These days I find it difficult to walk very far, but my trike means I can get about under my own steam. I am thinking of upgrading to an e-trike so the hills will be easier.”
Hubert cycles to visit friends and family, and to pick up shopping – with his ‘invaluable’ shopping basket on the front.
Paul enjoying Oxford
Paul, 74, moved to Grandpont during lockdown. He’d always cycled a bit, but a prostate cancer diagnosis moved him to redeem the e-bike voucher his children gave him for Christmas.
“I realised an e-bike would be the most practical way to get to the Churchill for my treatment five times a week. It only takes 15 minutes to get there and it was glorious cycling alongside the river in the early morning, and then up through the LTNs. Divinity Road hill would have been really difficult without an e-bike, but I just put it in high power and low gear and I sailed up it.”
Paul says that the experience has made him into an enthusiastic cyclist. His wife doesn’t cycle, so if they go out together it tends to be on foot, but Paul runs a lot of errands on his e-bike (shopping, swimming, going to the GP) and he will happily cycle anywhere within the ring-road, although he prefers segregated cycle routes and safe junctions.
Having moved from the countryside, he says that being able to cycle everywhere is one of the best things about Oxford, and our noticeably poor air quality is one of the worst.
Caye and Tony cycling with the grandkids
Caye, 84, and Tony, 75, visit Oxford regularly to look after their grandchildren – my kids. They moved their bikes here a few years ago because they no longer felt safe cycling in their home town of Bristol. Last summer, they cycled with my 5-year old to his after-school activity on a Friday, along the towpath. And we regularly all cycle to other playparks and destinations as a family.
“We love cycling with our grandchildren, as long as there’s no traffic, because they find it so fun – and it’s enjoyable for us. It’s low impact on joints – it keeps us healthy.”
Not everyone older can cycle, but many more older people could bicycle, tricycle, and mobility scoot if we had better segregated and low-traffic infrastructure. After all, many more people in the UK can ride a bike than can drive. Wheels For All Oxford is an amazing organisation for helping people get cycling again, but there are other things we can do to help older people have the benefits of health, enjoyment and fun that cycling can bring. More next week.