Oxford Brookes University – Written evidence (INQ0041)


Submitted by: Dr Tim Jones and Dr Ben Spencer


  1. This submission is based on the 3-year £1.3m EPSRC cycle BOOM research project into the health and wellbeing benefits of older peoples cycling. Our response focusses on the findings and recommendations set out in the Summary Report (https://www.cycleboom.org/summary-report/), Briefing Notes (https://www.cycleboom.org/briefing-notes/) and peer reviewed articles.


More details of the project can be found at: www.cycleBOOM.org


  1. Firstly, we address Question 7: What technologies will be needed to help people to live independently for longer, with better health and wellbeing? What is the current state of readiness of these technologies, and what should be done to help older people to engage with them? In particular the examples of Transport, infrastructure, services, etc. for involvement in community and Accessible public spaces.


Our research showed that there were independence, health and wellbeing benefits from both the traditional technology of pedal cycling and from electrically assisted ‘e-bikes’. This is evidenced in the Summary Report (SR) pages 13-42.


Crucially, we found that ‘a similar (sometimes larger) effect for the e-bike group compared to the pedal cyclists… Both pedal cycles and e-bikes can enable increased physical activity and engagement with the outdoor environment with e-bikes potentially providing greater benefits.’ (Leyland L, Spencer B, Beale N, Jones T, van Reekum CM, 'The effect of cycling on cognitive function and well-being in older adults' PLoS ONE 14 (2) 2019).


In our Briefing Note, Electric Cycling for an Ageing Population, we recommended that the UK cycle industry should capitalise on the growing potential for e-bikes by:


  1. Promoting the positive benefits of e-biking including fun, freedom and the ability to access the outdoors with other people and the contribution this can make to promoting health and wellbeing.
  2. Tackling the general misperception that e-biking is ‘cheating’ by conveying the message that e-bikes provide ‘power assistance’.
  3. Encouraging retailers to stock e-bikes and training their front-of-house staff with the skills and expertise to support speculative buyers with a range of needs.
  4. Working with government to improve affordability through tax-free saving and other incentives such as battery replacement schemes.
  5. Working in partnership with training providers to offer bespoke e-bike training.
  6. Providing ‘try-out’ events to allow the public to experience e-biking first-hand.
  7. Working with public transport operators and motor vehicle manufacturers to find solutions for in/on vehicle carriage and charging of e-bikes.
  8. Reducing the weight of e-bikes to improve manoeuvrability.
  9. Offering a wider variety of sizes and designs to suit different heights and needs and ensuring that step-through frames are marketed as ‘unisex’.
  10. Ensuring operation of e-bikes is straightforward by using a simple array of power assist levels and gearing.
  11. Providing optional features such as integrated mirrors, hand warmers, navigation systems (in addition to standard features such as locking devices, lights, chain/mudguards, prop stands and pannier racks) to improve comfort and utility of city and hybrid cycles.
  12. Encouraging the government to monitor use of e-bikes in the National Travel Survey


In terms of accessible public space our Briefing Note on Planning for Age Friendly Cycling recommended that planners, engineers and designers should:


  1. Provide dedicated cycling infrastructure separated from motor traffic and pedestrians on or close to all main roads and arterial routes into towns and cities and rural hinterlands and opportunities for side-by-side ‘social cycling’.
  2. Improve junctions and crossings by implementing measures now permitted in the Statutory Instrument, Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (2016) including low level cycle signals, early start for cyclists and parallel pedestrian and cyclist crossings.
  3. Implement low speed zones in urban and rural areas to create conditions for safer,
  4. less harried, more civilised cycling for all.
  5. Improve the quality of design so that it is clear where cyclists are ‘meant to be’. This means ensuring routes are clearly signposted and consistent in surface texture and colour across the UK and that they provide a comfortable and positive sensorial experience.
  6. Design outdoor space and cycle parking to support a range of cycle types including trikes and e-bikes.
  7. Develop a strategy to reduce motorised traffic levels, particularly heavy goods vehicles, in the centre of towns and cities to allow cycling (and walking) to flourish.
  8. Ensure that public bike schemes provide cycles that are easy to use by older riders
  9. (e.g. unisex ‘step-through’ frame, electric bikes) and that they can be accessed with concessionary travel cards.
  10. Provide designated secure cycle parking at public transport hubs with charging points for e-bikes, step free access and adequate width and space for non-standard cycles.
  11. Work with public transport operators and motor vehicle manufacturers to find solutions for in/on vehicle carriage of cycles and charging of e-bikes.
  12. Site new housing development for older people in flatter areas to facilitate cycling and ensuring that, where there are gradients, these are gentle and provide sufficient width for lateral movement.
  13. Implement recently revised Building Regulations relating to accessible, adaptable dwellings based on Lifetime Homes which could support cycle users as well as those using other mobility aids such as wheelchairs and mobility scooters, for example, by enabling convenient movement between the street and the dwelling.
  14. Develop private and communal cycle storage options close to property entrances (with the ability to charge e-bikes) in order to provide safe and convenient access to cycles for everyday use - see HAPPI design criteria.
  15. Provide safe and convenient access to local services by implementing slow zones/cycle streets in residential areas and linking cycle tracks to key local amenities and green space, blue corridors into the countryside.
  16. Use participatory approaches to design public space for cycling that includes older and less experienced cyclists and people with different cycling mobility needs.


  1. Secondly, to address Question 7, How can technology be used to improve mental health and reduce loneliness for older people?

Through the measures recommended in 2 above simple existing technology in the form of pedal cycles and the emerging technology of e-bikes can be used for improved mental health and reduced loneliness among older people.


  1. Thirdly to address Question 8, What are the barriers to the development and implementation of these various technologies? And part a) What is needed to help overcome these barriers?

The main barriers to the wider adoption of (e)cycling lie in the political will to create safe and enjoyable environments for cycling, as set out above. There also needs to be greater recognition of the huge potential benefits of electric cycles and funding into their further development in contrast to the large sums flowing into the development of larger electric vehicles.


19 September 2019