Disabled People and Cycling

I attended a meeting yesterday about changes to a town centre and effects on disabled people yesterday.

A representative of local disability groups commented that in his experience in focus groups of disabled people, strong fear of cyclists were commonly expressed.

I found this very thought provoking, because I am a disabled person whose primary mobility aid or prosthetic is a Christiania cargo trike! I understand from Danish neurophysiotherapists that they strongly recommend cycling as physiotherapy!

What precisely is it about cycling that people are afraid of?

Why does risk assessment seems to have become so badly skewed so that car crashes and speeding  are thought of as less important than interactions with cyclists?

I am reminded of a saying about motes and planks, and am puzzled why we are reacting to these issues like this! The habitus here seems to be unexamined, and solutions are being proposed before the issues have been properly defined.

There are a huge set of background issues here to explore and the following is a very brief attempt to sketch out what might actually be a tiny part of the total picture.

Is there a directly related problem about bike design?

The lean forward position that is very common in the UK ( but remember cycling is an endangered species here) puts the centre of gravity slightly forward so when braking toppling forward is likely meaning helmets might be reasonable.

I think it is this that people find threatening – they are seeing unstable chaotic movements that we are attuned to through evolution to see as a threat. The comments about mamils on racing bikes are about this – the visual signals – helmet, bright colours lean forward are all perceived as threat signals.

In contrast the sit up and beg style has centre of gravity roughly where it is when walking, so this imbalance does not happen, meaning helmets are not needed as they aren’t when walking, and the body language of a cyclist on a sit up and beg is very similar to someone walking.

Sib is truly easier than walking and allows eye contact , smiling and the normal courtesies of behaviour in large moving groups.

I would argue strongly for a code of courteous cycling, but interestingly the most courteous cyclist might be the maiden aunt cycling to church of John Major 🙂


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