Older riders: what they need

Older riders: what they need

By Emily Kerr

Emily is Oxford City Councillor for St Mary’s Ward

In last week’s On My Bike, I shared stories of older Oxford cyclists. This week I’m focusing on two older people who have great ideas about improving access for bikes and mobility scooters.

Safe cycleways

Alec, 94, switched to an e-bike five years ago. He cycles for transport everywhere within Oxford’s ring road, and goes out on country bike rides with his daughter and her husband,  both in their 70s.

I go out cycling every day, unless it’s absolutely terrible weather. Cycling is…well it’s my liberty. I would say it’s almost my life now. My legs aren’t terribly strong any more, and I can’t walk very well. But I can cycle just fine.

Older man with e-bike in Radcliffe Square

Alec cycles to visit friends, the GP, the hospital, for shopping and to events he thinks look interesting. He feels quite comfortable on the roads. But that’s not true for everyone.

“I speak to a lot of older people about cycling and the number one thing they want is safe, secluded cycleways – so it’s easy to get about. Lots of people want to get cycling again, to get fit, lose weight, and get about the city easily.  But many older people don’t know how to start again or how to make the bike stuck in the back of their garage roadworthy.”

Alec thinks there should be:

  • help sessions for hesitant and retired cyclists to help them “re-cycle” again
  • a cycling buddy to help them get going
  • an event offering free bike checks, and advice on buying, repairing and e-converting bikes

He loves the idea of a larger event, a day where older people could come and try out different types of bike in a safe environment, and a parade or marshalled ride for older people to ride the roads safely.

Making mobility work

Cecily, 79, stopped cycling 10 years ago due to limited mobility. A few years later she bought a second-hand mobility scooter – and it’s transformed her sense of freedom.

“Mobility scooters are quite easy to learn – but can be really nerve-wracking to start with. And many people who use them feel safer if they’re out with others. Personally, if I go on the towpath, I always go out with my friend who is walking her dog.”

Cecily uses her scooter to go shopping, see friends and visit her husband’s grave. She loves the independence it gives her, and wants others to benefit in the same way.

I think there are many housebound older people whose lives could be transformed by mobility scooters. Even if you only ever go out with other people, having your own mobility rather than being pushed in a wheelchair or taken as a passenger in a car makes you feel so much more independent.

Cecily says roads are problematic because of potholes (worse on a small-wheeled scooter), and traffic danger – especially cars invading the cycle lane. Pavements have many obstructions: bins, over-running hedges, cars, tree roots and dropped kerbs.

But she says there are other barriers. It is a hassle to get scooters serviced – especially as specialist sellers are mostly online. Bike shops will change scooter tyres, but don’t keep them in stock, and mobile servicing options are good but expensive. New users need advice on scooter types, and it would be helpful to have guided rides and a special map showing destinations, routes, shops with ‘scooter-friendly’ aisles, and disabled loos. Cecily would welcome a rotating mobility-scooter mending and advice service, something which visited all the “50+” groups in Oxford.

More ideas?

There are loads of great ideas here, and I hope we can make some of them happen over the next few years. If you have any further ideas on how we can get older people cycling, please contact Cyclox at contact@cyclox.org.


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