Diversifying and normalising cycling in London, UK: an exploratory study on the influence of infrastructure

Journal of Transport and Health
Publication date: 
November 2016
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This article examines the extent to which protected infrastructure is associated with greater diversity and normalisation of cycling. In the UK, cyclists are predominantly male and often wear distinctive cycle clothing rather than everyday clothes. This is not the case in higher-cycling countries such as the Netherlands and Germany. It has been argued that the UK's demographic skewing may be partly due to poor quality infrastructure which can be off-putting for many, but particularly for women, children and older people. Route choice studies tend to confirm that women are more likely than men to choose routes with greater levels of separation from motor traffic. Other work suggests that if cycling feels unsafe, cyclists may wear specialised cycle clothing such as helmets, which then may itself support a perception of cycling as dangerous.

This small-scale exploratory study examines age, gender, and use of specialist clothing in relation to infrastructure type, comparing a recently improved route with separate space for cyclists to parallel busy streets without protected cycle infrastructure. The separated route showed better, though still unequal, demographic balance and a reduced tendency for cyclists to wear helmets and sporty clothing, though not high-visibility items. Infrastructure type is only one factor in route choice, particularly if there is relatively little good infrastructure along key desire lines. However this paper suggests that infrastructure for cycling could help to improve perceptions of safety and the need to wear specialist cycle clothing. In turn this could promote a better demographic balance and normalise cycling.