Beyond the Bicycle Conference

Here’s the second of our two posts about Wheels for Wellbeing, a locally based nationally recognised cycling group.

Beyond the Bicycle Conference
Brixton-based Wheels for Wellbeing held their first Beyond the Bicycle Conference in November. This brought together campaigners, local authorities, disabled people’s organisations, journalists and transport and health professionals to discuss the future of inclusive cycling. Speakers included representatives from the Department of Transport, Transport for London, Disability Rights UK, Public Health England, Transport for All and disabled cyclists from around the UK.

Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, opened the event by sharing his memories of discovering the joy of cycling as a teenager thanks to an NHS handcycle – and the freedom, speed and independence that went with it. Sadly the NHS no longer provides hand cycles for wheelchairs users, although there is a new recognition from health organisations of the importance of helping everybody become more active and independent.

Arguments referring to ‘the needs of disabled people’ are sometimes used to oppose good cycling infrastructure, so it was very useful for representatives from Transport for London and Department for Transport to hear direct from disabled people highlighting the rights of everyone to be active, promoting the importance of cycles as mobility aids, and underlining that cycling infrastructure needs to be inclusive and suitable for all.

Picture from Wheels for Wellbeing.

In its 10 years of operating Wheels for Wellbeing has helped more than 6000 disabled people learn to or practice cycling, some of whom never believed that could be for them. With sessions five times a week at safe off-road venues such as parks, community centres and the Herne Hill velodrome, disabled staff, trustees, volunteers and participants are proving that everybody can cycle given the right equipment and environment. However, it’s a different story on the roads where the infrastructure is simply not accessible for many, because of fears of traffic or barriers, unfriendly kerbs, steps or sections which are impassable if you can’t carry your bike or get off and walk.

The role of Wheels for Wellbeing has grown beyond grassroots direct support. To effect change on a larger scale, and to enable people to cycle wherever they want or need to, the organisation is becoming a respected national voice of disabled people calling for excellent cycling infrastructure. The charity has joined with other groups who face similar challenges for example cargo cycles, families and other non-standard cycles to form the ‘Beyond the Bicycle Coalition’.

At the conference Wheels for Wellbeing launched its new Guide to Inclusive Cycling as an summary of essential aspects to be considered when designing for cycling: building inclusive infrastructure, designing inclusive facilities and recognising disabled people as cyclists – to help planners and decision-makers understand the issues from the point of view of disabled people. This is a working document so all feedback is welcome.

If you’d like to find out more, or can help with campaigning or fundraising to help more disabled people of all ages discover the love of cycling, visit WfW’s website or find them on Twitter @wfwnews.

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