Pioneering research conducted by Dr Rachel Aldred, Senior Lecturer in Transport in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster, has helped transform the policy mindset on cycling and paves the way for increased cycling participation in the future.

The research into the barriers to cycling and how to overcome them has been recognised by a £10,000 award for Outstanding Impact in Public Policy in the 2016 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize.

Dr Aldred’s research has contributed to Transport for London’s decision to increase investment in cycling from a few million pounds a year to a £1 billion 10-year programme as well as the adoption of new, inclusive approaches to increasing cycling participation in London and beyond.

“Without a fundamental shift in policy thinking, levels of cycling are likely to remain low,” Dr Aldred says. “What we need is to move away from seeing cycling as an individual activity, to be promoted by training and education, to seeing cycling as part of the transport system that needs to be enabled by infrastructural, political and cultural supports,” she explains.

Getting people to cycle, she insists, is not just about having the right infrastructure but also about changing cycling cultures and removing cycling stigma.

“To get everyone cycling it’s essential to have infrastructure that keeps cyclists and motor traffic apart, and along with this, to change road cultures and assumptions about cyclists,” she points out.

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Changing the policy mindset on cycling

Dr Rachel Aldred's new insights into barriers to cycling have produced a fundamental shift in policy – leading to increased investment in cycling infrastructure and a new approach to increasing cycling participation throughout the UK.
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Isabel Dedring, London’s former Deputy Mayor for Transport, says: “Dr Aldred’s research has influenced the change in mindsets that we have seen over these past five years in relation to cycling and cycling policy.”

Over the past five years, Dr Aldred’s work has prompted the development of improved London cycle design guidance; shaped the creation of London’s first international quality cycle superhighways; introduced the concept of cycling ‘near misses’ into transport policy thinking, prompting police forces including Avon and Somerset to develop near miss reporting systems, and to focus on improved highway design and collision prevention.

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize recognises and rewards the successes of ESRC-funded researchers who have achieved, or are currently achieving, outstanding economic and societal impacts. In awarding the prize for ‘Outstanding Impact in Public Policy’ to Dr Aldred, the judging panel has praised her work in changing policy with regard to cycling and highlighted the clear impact of her work on ‘the policymaking process with policymakers, professionals and practitioners’.

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