By Charles Pekow — It's not just gender, ethnicity, income or certain neighborhoods that get overlooked in efforts to expand the universe of people who ride bikes. Manufacturers, advocates and planners may also be overlooking another large group of potential bicyclists: senior citizens. Many more people would be likely to ride if bikes and infrastructure were designed better for them. Or so suggests a new study from the Mineta Transportation Institute. And the older demographic has become more important because members have increased their desire to ride during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The institute questioned 2,300 people over 50 in the United States and Canada who ride about their habits and how cycling could become more friendly and safer for them. (The institute didn't include seniors who don't ride about why not and what might get them interested.) About 61 percent of respondents were men and respondents mainly came from relatively high-income households. “This is a recognized weakness of the survey,” the report acknowledges.
Most respondents indicated they learned to ride as a child or teen, indicating a need for more adult education in communities. Health or aging agencies, bike shops or recreation departments could run programs. Cambridge, MA, for instance, started a program to teach adults to ride (including skills for those who had learned many years ago but stopped riding). Cambridge had to do the program by webinar during the pandemic and put the program on YouTube.
“Older adults’ desire to continue riding means that planners and designers need to include this demographic in network planning, design, and maintenance. Planning for older adult communities should also be design to support cycling both within and with connections to the adjacent bicycle network,” the report says. Ebikes and trikes will help many.
Find Cycling Past 50: A Closer Look into the World of Older Cyclists at https://transweb.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/2112-Kachadoorian-Cycling-Past-50.pdf