People looking for positives during the pandemic have pointed to a decrease in air pollution as a result of fewer motor vehicles on the road – which has also created a surge in cycling, both as a hobby and as a way to travel. 

Exercise is a fundamental method of increasing wellbeing. Plenty of disabled people cycle since it’s a non-impact exercise that can benefit joints and muscles, increase stamina and respiration, not to mention the social and mental health benefits.

A huge number of people dusted off their bicycles during lockdown (using them for their daily exercise quota). Empty roads and cleaner air made the whole experience seemingly safer and more pleasant. 

Cycling has been popular with disabled people for a long time, not just because of the health benefits but also for practical reasons. People with physical disabilities, including amputees or even issues with balance, can utilise tricycles or handcycles – and you’ll also find models that take two people, sometimes so that a carer can help to steer or brake, etc when out riding with a child or person with intellectual disabilities.

Being outdoors in the fresh air is a completely different experience to keeping fit indoors but also having several riders together, it’ll soon turn into a social opportunity – assuming the going isn’t too heavy.  The other benefit of being outdoors, of course, is that it’s far more Covid safe than other environments.

There are plans to make sure that the cycling trend becomes a long term habit, rather than a short term fad.

The Government has already committed to a £2bn initiative to support more people to take up or continue cycling. Schemes will include better provision of cycling infrastructure such as separate cycle lanes as well as a consultation to change advice published in the Highway Code which could see clearer obligations for drivers of motor vehicles to take more responsibility towards the safety of cyclists, as well as other road hierarchy and safety guidance.

Safety is a key factor to get right since it’s one of the major obstacles to cyclists feeling confident about using the road network, especially disabled people that do not want to be swept up in a rush. It’s also essential that a universal or inclusive cycling strategy is designed that makes any new cycling infrastructure accessible for disabled people. This should include ensuring that cycle lanes, whether they’re on main roads or through parks, are suitable for a range of cycle types, including adaptive cycles for those that feel confident and are competent enough as riders. Indeed, inclusive cycling charity, Wheels for Wellbeing, has already written to Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, outlining some of the key issues that need to be addressed to keep cycling a feasible option for disabled people. 

An increase in cycling has so many benefits, both for the individual and to the wider community. The current situation provides an incredible opportunity to give it a real push start.

Adapted bikes
Not all bikes are bicycles, in the traditional sense. Adapted cycle options like handcycles, tricycles, recumbent tricycles and different types of tandems mean that people with varying disabilities are able to enjoy the benefits of cycling.

Bikes with electric motors can also help people that experience fatigue or breathlessness. They usually work as a hybrid between pedal power and electric assistance

Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme
As if to underline that cycling has had a major popularity boost during the pandemic, the first 50,000 vouchers for a scheme worth up to £50 towards cycle repairs have been allocated. 

The scheme was open to anyone in England who had an unused cycle in need of a repair. The Government has announced that it’s working closely with the cycling industry during this pilot stage to monitor the scheme’s impact and that more vouchers will be released when they are “confident people will be able to get their bikes fixed at a wide range of retailers without significant waiting times”.

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Why cycling is a wheely good idea….
Cycling is a healthy way to travel. It provides a decent cardio workout, helps burn calories and builds muscle, while maintaining flexibility in joints.

Unlike public transport options, cycling can be said to be 100% Covid safe. It’s in the outdoors and socially distanced.

Next to the costs of a bus or railway season ticket, it’s cheap and convenient. Yes, you’ll need to invest upfront in a cycle but you’ll probably peddle that investment back in under a year. (Unlike public transport there’s no timetable and it’ll take you literally door-to-door.

Get involved. Wheels for Wellbeing has been campaigning for inclusive cycling infrastructure. They can also advise on disability cycling.