Friday, 26 December 2014
Equality for all cyclists: The social justice case for mass cycling
Do busy roads put off cyclists with disabilities, women or older people? And if so, could local authorities be made to improve cycle infrastructure under equality legislation?
It’s fair to say that, for all the government promises of a “cycling revolution”, not a vast amount has happened in recent years to improve the lot of cyclists on Indian roads. Campaigns, pestering MPs, direct action – nothing seems to have worked.
So how about just taking legal action under equalities legislation, forcing local authorities to provide proper cycle infrastructure?
OK, it’s probably not going to happen soon, even if you could find somebody rich and patient enough to fund a fairly speculative test case.
But the idea, is nonetheless fascinating as it highlights one of the lesser-aired arguments for a more cycle- and walking-friendly world: the issue of social justice.
Numerous other studies on “environmental inequality” have noted that poorer people, who own the fewest cars, often live by the busiest roads.
An extension to this is the idea that the forms of transport arguably most accessible to all income groups – walking and cycling – are the ones least catered for by public infrastructure.
Writing on the issue, these inequalities also take in, while in countries like the Netherlands about as many women as men get about by bike, in England a fairly macho cycling culture, which often necessitates mixing it with fast-moving cars, partly explains why little more than a quarter of bike commuters are female.
This is often an ignored area, but the statistics show that 5.1% of cycle commuters in India are people whose day-to-day activities are limited in some way – that is to say they have some form of disability. While this isn’t much below the total proportion of commuters with disabilities, at 6.8%, there is a huge variation between areas for bike commuting among those with disabilities, ranging from 0.2% to 25.9%.