Throughout 2014, Oxford Brookes University’s cycle BOOM team have been engaging with people in their older age who cycle, as well as those who no longer do, inviting some to try out cycling once more and record their experiences.
According to the cycle BOOM website, it is ‘a study to understand cycling among the older population and how this affects independence, health and wellbeing’. Tim Jones, Principal Investigator, from the Department of Planning, are leading the study, which focuses on the cycling habits of the older population in and around Oxford, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff in particular.
The study focuses on 250 people [125 in Wave 1 in 2014, and 125 in Wave 2 in 2015] across a number of Work Packages. Despite a later than planned start (June 2014), progress with recruitment exceeded expectation, and the data collected throughout 2014 is currently being analysed.
Some of the research activities cycle BOOM have undertaken throughout 2014:
Cycling Life History Interviews
Participants complete a ‘Life History Grid’ to establish where they have lived; family circumstances; places of education and work; methods of transport; hobbies/leisure activities; and when they have cycled in their life. This is then used at a follow-up interview to explore the role that cycling has (or has not) played in their life and how their cycling behaviour has changed across their lifetime.
Cycling and Wellbeing Trial
Selected participants visit the University to complete wellbeing questionnaires and conduct a series of computerised cognitive tasks which assess memory, attention and speed of thinking. They are then asked to cycle for at least half an hour, three times a week, before conducting the same tests after an eight week period, to try and establish whether incorporating cycling into everyday chores, such as getting from home to work or the shops, may positively contribute to having good mental health in older age.
Cycle Ride Observation and Interview
Following the Life History Interview a date is arranged to observe the participant taking part in a cycle ride. For Cardiff and Reading, this follows a pre-planned (‘way-marked’) route. For Oxford and Bristol, participants take the researchers on a route of their choice (a ‘naturalistic’ approach).
In April-June 2014, the cycle BOOM team visited two European cities where cycling is on the increase in the older population, to observe specific sites that could help us address the design of the built environment and technology to support older peoples’ mobility in the UK and how this affects wellbeing.
Some key findings from the EU Case Study visits are presented below:
- In Munich, strong political leadership was identified as key in determining the level of support for cycling interventions. However, there were concerns that recent changes in the composition of the city government might see a reduced focus on cycling in future.
- The role of peer-group advocates to promote cycling as a viable alternative to car use among the older population was singled out as particularly important in reaching this demographic.
- In Seville, political leadership coupled with more grass-roots / community action was seen as critical in establishing cycling as a viable mode of transport for city residents. Concerns that political changes and on-going budgetary restrictions could see a reduced focus on cycling were highlighted.
- There are plans to extend an integrated multi-modal transport network across the Andalucian region to join up cities/towns such as Seville and Cordoba, who have implemented their own urban cycling strategies, suggesting that cycling remains a focus for government action at the regional scale.
Wave 2 of the study commenced in early 2015 and cycle BOOM is particularly looking for further participants aged 50 and above who no longer cycle. You can register your interest on the contact page of their website, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 01865 482752.
For further information: