Participation in cycle BOOM
Design for wellbeing seminar
School's out(side) for summer
Analysing Complex Data
Tales from the field
The E-bike experience
vents & Presentations
Future Events
Project Outputs

cycle BOOM | Newsletter

Issue 2 | December 2015

Welcome to the second edition of the annual cycle BOOM Newsletter.

Here you will find information about what we have been busy doing
throughout 2015, in year two of the cycle BOOM project.

cycle BOOM is all about understanding how the adoption, or continuation, of cycling can be supported in older age. This is particularly important as we are faced with the twin challenge of designing our towns and cities to support an ageing population and that also promote more sustainable ways of living. 

We'd like to thank all of those people who have taken part or shown an interest in our work. Please get in touch if you would like any further information.

Happy riding in 2016!

Dr. Tim Jones (Principal Investigator)

Click on the links to find more about our ObjectivesScopeMethods and Case Study areas.  A Project Infographic is also available to download from our website.

Table 1: Achievement [numbers in brackets] vs Target Sample Population (as at 21 December 2015) 
Participants of the 'cycle BOOM' study
We’d like to say ‘thank you’ to all of those people who have given up their time to take part in the cycle BOOM study. At the beginning of the project we set a target of recruiting up to 250 people with different levels of cycling experience ranging from those who had stopped cycling many years ago to those who had almost continuously cycled. At the time of writing, 218 people have taken part in our study. This is around ninety per cent of our target and includes: 95 people who currently cycle, 71 people who have either stopped cycling or have never cycled but wish to (re)start and 32 people who we might call ‘dedicated non-cyclists’- those who have stopped or never started cycling and do not intend to do so. 

Still a chance to participate!
At the beginning of 2016 we are looking to recruit people to fill the final few remaining slots in our cycling and wellbeing trial. We are particularly keen to involve men age 50 or over living in the Oxford/Abingdon or Reading areas. If you or anyone you know is keen to commit to riding either an e-bike or a pedal cycle for twenty minutes three times a week over a period of eight weeks then please register at:  There are lots of benefits including potential loan of an e-bike; free cycle assessment and advice from a qualified cycle trainer; £50 gift voucher; and a massive discount on purchase of a Raleigh bicycle and/or equipment for participants and relations in their household. By getting outdoors and addressing the seasonal excess it might also be the perfect start to 2016 that you are looking for!
The 'cycle BOOM' Infographic

One part of our research is to examine existing data to see what it can tell us about the 'older' cyclist. We have used this data to answer questions such as how uncommon is it for older people to cycle, under what circumstances do they currently cycle and what might encourage more of them to cycle in the future. We have produced an infographic to show what we found. You can download a full colour PDF of it here.

Fig. 2: Seville's segregated cycle lanes
Fig.3: Munich's cycle campaign
While cycling levels are not high for any age group in the UK, they are much lower for those aged 50 and over. This is not the case in some other countries where cycling is actually more common in older age. This is a first indication of the potential for increasing the amount of cycling in later life in the UK.

As we get older in the UK, cycling is no longer principally undertaken for getting to school, college or work, but for other reasons such as social activities. These trips are shorter in distance. This highlights that to support older people cycling the focus should be on making local streets more cycling friendly. Cycling investment in the UK has tended to concentrate on cycling to school and work (and the routes that are used for this) but this neglects the needs of older cyclists. The gender divide that exists in cycling in the UK applies to older cyclists as much as it does to younger age groups with older women less than half as likely to cycle. We know women in general live longer and have healthier lives for longer but they are not cycling very much during older age. It is also found they are less likely to get sufficient physical activity for good health than men.

Turning to the reasons for low level of cycling in older age in the UK, it is evident that physical limitations and health barriers to cycling are higher among older people and confidence to cycle is lower. Whilst more than 1 in 4 older people have bikes, only 1 in 9 cycle of these regularly. That means there are a lot of older people who could presumably cycle but do not. What might encourage them to do so?  Nearly half of older people say that if there were more dedicated cycle paths they would cycle (more). The bicycles themselves could also play a role. In the Netherlands many older people nowadays use e-bikes. Greater availability and visibility of bikes more suitable for older people (such as e-bikes) could increase the numbers of older people cycling.

In older age groups in the UK the proportion of the population getting sufficient physical activity for good health is very low – regular cycling could contribute to improving this situation. Thankfully it is not just us that recognise this potential. London’s Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan discussing the Mayor of London’s plans for cycling in the capital has said “What I want to see…is far more women doing it, far more older people doing it”.
Design for Wellbeing Seminar
In April 2015, cycle BOOM hosted a British Society for Gerontology sponsored seminar 'Design for Wellbeing: Innovative research methods for understanding older people’s everyday mobility' at Oxford Brookes which was attended by around 50 people. The seminar brought together the seven projects funded under the UK Research Councils’ Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) ageing research programme

The event discussed the novel methodologies that are being used by the projects in order to generate ‘ambitious and transformative research’ that seeks to improve design for mobility and the wellbeing of the ageing population. A full report of the event can be found here.
School’s out(side) for summer
The cycle BOOM project is about how our environment and technologies work together to help or hinder peoples’ mobility. During 2015, we explored these issues with Year 9 and 10 Design and Technology students from Headington's Cheney School.

The first challenge for the students was to re-design the environment of east Oxford’s London Road. They started by doing an analysis of the street space; this was captured in the form of mind-maps. The students then made a collage representing their proposals for a utopian London Road of the future - these included great ideas for improving the street environment – opening up the park, greening the street, restricting motorised traffic, improving other mobility choices and enhancing local distinctiveness.

The second challenge for the students was redesigning the Raleigh Motus E-bikes which are being used in cycle BOOM’s wellbeing trial. Taking two bikes onto the school playing fields the students assessed them in a number of ways. They carefully observed the bikes and asked questions about ergonomics, aesthetics, function and user types before hearing about some previous research on users experiences of E-bikes. Then they got to ride the E-bikes, testing their speed, acceleration and manoeuvrability. This was all brought together by carrying out a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis.

Over the two phases of the project the students deepened their appreciation of issues relating to designing for mobility. This was both in terms of the physical design of urban spaces and the potential of technologies, including e-bikes, that can support cycling into older age.
Fig. 2: Seville's segregated cycle lanes
Fig.3: Munich's cycle campaign
Analysing Complex Data
It was a busy summer for the cycle BOOM team, recruiting and conducting research with remaining participants at our four sites (Oxford, Bristol, Cardiff and Reading). 

We are now moving to the final phases of the project, preparing the data we have gathered for analysis, and the in-depth analysis itself. We have a variety of data types including digitally audio recorded biographical interviews; video from mobile rides; audio/video from post-ride video elicitation interviews; textual data from diaries and numerical data from cognitive tests generated from the cycling and wellbeing trials. The first challenge (to prepare the data ready for analysis) has been met, and we have developed a robust process of analysis, including integration of the different components.

We are using a computer program called Transana ( that allows researchers to transcribe and analyse large collections of text-based, video, audio, and still image data.
Tales from the field
Since mid-2014, the cB researchers have been working with a diverse range of people age 50 and over as part of the investigation into cycling and ageing. This has involved extensive biographical interviews and also ‘go-along’ rides where the researcher observed and video'd riders as they navigated their way around by bicycle and then interviewing them about the ride using the video.

Whilst these different methods incorporated distinct questions about cycling in later life, in practice we have seen that they complement each other to reveal a more complete picture of participant’s possibilities and constraints for using a bike at various points in their lives.

For Heather Jones, cB researcher at UWE (Bristol), data collection has been a fascinating insight in to how people’s cycling (or absence of cycling) has arisen and for some, how it continues to evolve as they negotiate the events and transitions of later life. It has also thrown some light on changes in how they use other forms of mobility e.g. gaining a bus pass, having more time to walk. Something Heather hadn’t anticipated perhaps was how life stories about cycling would also be enlightening about more general experiences of getting older. People talked about the feel of riding their bike, bodily changes that affected the comfort and confidence. People often reflected on how it felt to cycle now in comparison to what they recalled of cycling earlier in their life.

Here is a snapshot of some of the participants Heather met (these are not their real names):
Chloe and Wilfred were a husband and wife who Heather accompanied on one of their twice weekly cycle rides on the outskirts of Bristol. Chloe had a few decades of cycling behind her whereas Wilfred had started again just a few years previously, his first cycling since he was a teenager. He told Heather about his cycling in relation to his retirement and recovery from knee replacement operations. He joked how his family had presented him with a bicycle as a ‘gentle’ hint that he now needed to do some exercise. He admitted that at first had done it mostly to please Chloe but was now fairly enthusiastic about the rides and cycle holidays they were accumulating.
Then there was Timothy. Heather met Timothy at his office on an industrial park about 10 miles outside of Bristol. In the biographical interview, Timothy had told how he had returned to cycling following an incident where he was knocked off and seriously injured. He hadn’t cycled for almost 10 years until some health issues made him feel he really had to get back to cycling. It was really moving to hear Timothy’s account of overcoming his anxiety of cycling on the roads and the weight he had lost as he built up to commuting on a daily basis by bike. It’s no exaggeration to say Heather struggled to keep up; on more than one occasion he disappeared out of shot on the video. Heather put this down to a heavy backpack and steadily becoming soaked to the skin by the rain!
Figs. Meeting and riding with participants, and mobile ride traces (left Oxford; right Bristol).
The E-bike experience
The participants selected for the wellbeing trials first complete questionnaires assessing psychological wellbeing and complete a series of computerised tasks that assess memory, attention and speed of thinking. The participants are then asked to cycle (either on a pedal bike or a ‘Motus’ e-bike supplied by our Partners at Raleigh) for at least half an hour, three times a week, over a period of 8-weeks, before repeating the same wellbeing survey and computerised tasks.

Preliminary reports from our participants suggest some improvement in the tests in all the cyclists after the intervention. Many of the pedal and e-bike participants are experiencing increased psychological wellbeing, fitness, and cognitive ability after completing the trial. At the end of the study, we can see whether these self-reported experiences are reflected in actual improvements in the computerised tasks. The majority of the participants that have completed the trial have indicated that they will continue to cycle and some have enjoyed the e-bike experience so much they have purchased one after completing the trial!

During the trials the participants are asked to document their experience in a Diary of Cycling Experience (DoCE). The diaries allow us to develop a richer understanding of the impact of cycling and the effect of the experience on the participants. For example, is electric bicycle technology providing new opportunities to explore different geographical areas, travel greater distances and reduce concerns about tackling hills?  The diaries are also providing extremely useful information on participants’ reflections whilst taking part in the eight-week trial. 

Many participants have commented on how the e-bike enabled them to investigate new areas that they would not otherwise have been able to cycle to:

“Pleased to cycle to Sonning Common, enjoyed it and quite proud of the achievement.”

Others have commented on the combination of increasing mobility as well as fitness by using the e-bike:

“The e-bike trial has been very interesting. The e-bike is really good – practical personal transport with a bit of exercise. Lost 5kg over the 8 weeks.”

Another important aspect is that an e-bike can enable an environment in which the participant feels comfortable re-engaging with cycling as they have to worry less about physical exertion during the ride:

“Overall have really enjoyed the e-bike and getting back my confidence of cycling. Have avoided really busy roads as much as possible with pre-planning routes and exploring.  I’ve returned to being a cyclist and will keep pedalling!”

Others have commented simply on the enjoyment they get from riding the bike:

“Pleasant to go out … cycling with my husband. He said how hard it was to keep up with me on the uphill bits.”

“First real Spring-like day. It was a pleasure to cycle! ”

“Cycled for fun. Lovely, didn’t have lights so didn’t go so far but really enjoyed the freedom.”

“Group cycle ride with village friends. Great fun – hills were less daunting than in my head. Having companions gave confidence.”

“Cycling felt very liberating.”

However, there have been some things noted that can be improved with cycling experience:

“Bike quite heavy to control. Was very wary about cycling such a distance in traffic – bit scary but made it home in one piece and not too washed out!”

“It will take me a long time to get used to the electric bike – it feels weird. It is so heavy, with the battery and motor. I struggle to lift it to turn around or get it up a kerb, I wobble when I set off, but then the motor makes it feel as if i am not having to expend much energy when I am cycling.”

“I was tentative on the bike to begin with as it was a long time since I’ve ridden in traffic, and Oxford traffic is scary!”

“Surprising how even slight gradients seem quite steep when your legs aren’t used to it!”

We have nearly completed all data collection with participants of the e-bike and pedal cycle trial, and we plan to report the full results during the first quarter of 2016.
Events attended | Presentations made in 2015
The cycle BOOM Team has been very active in the second year of the project attending and presenting at national and international meetings / conferences.  Visit the website for further information and to download our presentations:
Future Events [Planned Presentations in 2016]
  • Mobil.TUM 2016 | 6-7 June 2016 | Munich
  • 7th ESRC Research Methods Festival | 5-7 July 2016 | University of Bath
  • 45th Annual BSG Conference | Special session on ‘Researching Design for Wellbeing'6-8 July 2016 | University of Stirling
  • RGS Annual International Conference 2016 | Special session on ‘Everyday Geographies of Ageing’ | 30 August - 2 September 2016 | London
  • Cycling and Society Annual Symposium 2016 | September 2016

Project Events [Planned for 2016]

  • Final 'cycle BOOM' Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) Meeting | Spring 2016
  • cB Seminar | Velomobile Methods: Investigation - Interrogation - Interpretation | OBU | May 2016  [date tbc]
  • Final Project Conferences | London & Manchester, Sept. 2016 [date/venue tbd]
Project Outputs
We will be producing a compendium of six short ‘bite size’ documentary videos providing an insight into the cycle BOOM research and findings.  The outline for the compendium is as follows:
  • Video #1 | cycle BOOM study overview
  • Video #2 | Key findings 1: EU case study visits [completed]
  • Video #3 | Key findings 2: Life history interviews
  • Video #4 | Key findings 3: Mobile interviews
  • Video #5 | Key findings 4: Cycling and wellbeing trials
  • Video #6 | Summary of findings
Copyright © | December 2015 | | All rights reserved.

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