New insights into barriers to cycling have produced a fundamental shift in policy – leading to increased investment in cycling infrastructure and a new approach to increasing cycling participation throughout the UK.

Impacts

  • Dr Rachel Aldred's research has directly shaped the transformation in Transport for London's (TfL) cycling policy over the last decade, helping to increase cycling spend from 50p to £10 per head and the development of improved guidance for designing cycling infrastructure in London.
  • Her research led to the creation of London's first international-quality 'cycle superhighways', providing segregated cycle tracks that separate cyclists from motor traffic.
  • She introduced the concept of cycling 'near misses' (and the idea that these, as well as collisions and injuries, can deter people from cycling and make it feel unsafe) into transport policy – prompting police services including Avon and Somerset to develop near-miss reporting systems, and focus on improved highway design and collision prevention.
  • Her pioneering research on cultural barriers to cycling encouraged authorities including TfL and Bristol City Council to introduce more inclusive cycling promotion campaigns.
  • Her survey of children and cycling was the first to explore the infrastructure needed for adults to allow children to cycle and has been influential in Waltham Forest's innovative Mini-Holland Programme to create a cycling-friendly environment.
  • The free online Propensity to Cycle Tool (www.pct.bike), which she helped develop, is being used by transport planners and policymakers to prioritise investment by helping them decide where cycling has the greatest growth potential.

“Over the past five years London has started to invest substantially in cycling... Dr Aldred, as a leading expert in this area, has been a key part of this process.” (Isabel Dedring, London's former Deputy Mayor for Transport)

About the research

"In the Netherlands, women over 65 make one in four of their trips by bike, but how often do we see older women cycling in the UK?" asks Dr Rachel Aldred.

Despite government encouragement, and unquestionable economic, health and social benefits, relatively few British people – whether pensioners or pre-school – have been getting on their bikes. Starting with her 2010-11 research project into cycling cultures, Dr Rachel Aldred set out to investigate why.

Changing the minds of Britain's non-cyclists, she discovered, first requires a fundamental shift in policy thinking. "We need to move away from seeing cycling as an individual activity to seeing cycling as part of the transport system – enabled by infrastructural, political, and cultural supports," says Dr Aldred.

"To get everyone cycling it’s essential to have infrastructure that keeps cyclists and motor traffic apart, and along with this to change road culture and assumptions about cyclists. We need to get to the point where it’s seen as OK to cycle in ordinary clothes; you don’t have to be kitted out in Lycra or covered in high-vis."

Over the past six years she has played a pivotal role in spreading this message to transport decision-makers, policymakers and the public, through evidence reviews to TfL and the London Assembly Transport Committee, briefings to MPs, being a member of TfL's Economic Case for Cycling working group and the NICE advisory group on Physical Activity and the Built Environment, and as Chair of the London Cycling Campaign Policy Forum.