Getting people from any social group to cycle more can have major benefits in cutting pollution and congestion. But when one relatively privileged niche dominates the bike lanes, there’s a danger that cycling investment won’t achieve anything like its maximum potential impact on the environmental or public health. Extending cycling’s popularity to groups underrepresented in the current rider fleet is a key issue for any city that truly wants the mode to take off.
A scheme in London shows how this equity might be achieved. Set up by the London Cycling Campaign, the Urban Cycle Loan project was created four years ago to encourage Londoners who hadn’t previously cycled to give it a try. While it wasn’t necessarily set up to target any specific societal segment beyond non-habitual cyclists, the scheme has nonetheless proved very successful in attracting people from groups that are under-represented among London’s cyclists—notably women and, to a lesser extent, ethnic minorities.