1 in 2 Disabled cyclists fear benefits will be taken away if they are ‘too active’

On International Day of Disabled Persons, Wheels for Wellbeing has published the results of a survey that show nearly half of Disabled cyclists fear benefit sanctions for being physically active.

The survey reveals that 49% of Disabled cyclists have worried about having their benefits reduced or withdrawn because of being physically active. Of those who expressed being worried, 17% said that this worry had deterred them from cycling, caused them to cycle less or to give up cycling altogether. Six percent reported having their benefits reduced or withdrawn because they cycle and are physically active.

It comes just weeks after research published by the Activity Alliance revealed that almost half of Disabled people said they worry the government will cut their benefits if they seem ‘too active’ for a disabled person.

Some respondents to the survey reported having Personal Independence Payment (PIP) withdrawn, whilst others expressed concern that they would not be awarded PIP because they cycled. “I’m currently awaiting DLA/PIP transition, but was told that cycling as a hobby would “count against me” when assessing my care and mobility needs”, one respondent said. Another said they felt there was “an assumption that disabled people must not be allowed to do more (physical activity) and, if they do, must be treated harshly by removing benefits”. Such concerns echo those of John, 59, who recently shared with us his story of why fear of benefit sanctions meant he stopped cycling four years ago.

The results of this survey, and stories like John’s, raise serious questions about how we perceive disability. They also pose a challenge to the Government and its commitment to tackle the physical inactivity crisis, particularly given the fact that Disabled people are half as likely as non-disabled people to be physically active.

Besides the issue of disability benefits and cycling, the survey also reveals stark findings around Disabled cyclist’s experiences of abuse and disability hate crime, and highlights the ongoing challenges faced by Disabled people who use their cycle as a mobility aid.

Isabelle Clement, Director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said:

“For Disabled people, cycling is a wonderful thing because it mitigates the effects of impairment and enables you to move freely over long distances, improving your overall wellbeing in the process – it doesn’t however make your impairment magically disappear! So to penalise people because they use a cycle to move around, as well as or instead of a wheelchair say, is just lazy and discriminatory. We call on DWP to clarify its position on this.”

Supporting the call, Xavier Brice, CEO at Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity and the custodian of the National Cycle Network, said:

“Now more than ever we should encourage people to keep active and enhance a positive perception of walking and cycling as levels of obesity, physical inactivity and isolation are progressively increasing.

“Cycling and walking improve health and wellbeing, increase independence while bringing benefits such as social interaction and friendship. Over 7% of users on the National Cycle Network have an activity-limiting health problem or a disability and we know the paths on the Network are hugely important places for them to both travel along and interact with others. And that is why we have recently laid out a new vision for the Network to create safe and more accessible paths for everyone, including wheelchair users, those riding adaptive bikes and the less physically active.”

Andy Dalby-Welsh, Deputy Chief Executive of Activity Alliance, said:

“The stark reality is that disabled people are still twice as likely as non-disabled people to be inactive. We need to understand the challenges and barriers that disabled people face on a daily basis to change the reality of disability, inclusion and sport. These survey results from Wheels for Wellbeing build on our insight by revealing more about disabled people’s experiences in a particular activity.

“We would urge policy makers within national and local Government to take on board the findings within this report. We all have an important role to enable more disabled people to lead happier and healthier lives.”

Roger Geffen, Policy Director at Cycling UK, said:

“It is surprising how many people find it difficult or impossible to walk very far but are able to cycle perfectly easily. Sadly, this survey shows how easily ‘disabled people’ get pidgeon-holed as being totally inactive, when the reality is far more complex. The more we can enable people to use cycles as mobility aids for day-to-day journeys or simply for pleasure, the more we can save on NHS and social care costs, by helping them to stay healthy, independent and happy.”

Baroness Barker, who sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), said:

“This report makes clear the amount of harassment and unjustified criticism disabled cyclists face when trying to maintain their health. The DWP’s outdated view of cycling and mobility of disabled people is a costly mistake.”

The results of the survey can be found here.


Notes to editors:

The survey was carried out between August and September 2018. Just over two hundred (202) Disabled cyclists from across the UK took part
Full results of the survey, and a report, can be found here.
For further comments please contact Isabelle Clement directly on 07903 450137


  • Mohammad Naeem Abbas 25/06/2020 5:44 pm

    I very much hope that common sense will prevail and the Government come to their senses. Disabled people like myself are always encouraged to exercise, it is one off the most recommended activities suggested to disabled people by their doctors.
    Personally for myself I am out of breath if having to go to the bathroom. Just one of my many illnesses is that I suffer from Asthma. A friend off mine suggested I try ride he’s bicycle to see if I could manage to ride it.
    To my incredible surprise, I felt I could ride short distances and amazingly the pain in my feet where I suffer from severe Osteoarthritis was not as bad as when taking a few steps. On top off that my back pain which I feel even when I’m sitting for just a few minutes was not as bad as riding a bike in the position I found to be bearable.
    My conclusion is that if I was not going to lose my disability benefits, I would certainly purchase a bike and would start riding.
    Keeping in mind the mental health benefits of riding a bike, especially for someone like me who currently spends £10 return in taxi fares to visit my family who only live 8mins drive away.
    It is not a decision that should take longer than a day for the Government to allow disabled people not to lose or have their benefits reduced for riding a bike.
    I explore the Government to do the right thing. Whichever Government pushes for these changes will get the vote off myself and my family and friends.

  • Sarah 11/03/2019 10:58 am

    Nothing surprises me. The assumptions made by the assessors are hilarious if you are not on the receiving end. Just because you can do one task with difficulty, carried out often by non normal means, leaving you exhausted for days, that is not in a safe reliably repeatedly, way they assume you can do many other things. I have a large garden, and like gardening so assumed I walked round, not that I crawled round, fell when trying to stand etc. Even crawling is not something I am able to do most days and not entirely safe when I do.
    Why do we have to worry that Big Brother may be watching us, and assuming all sorts just because we try to do some excercise. I can only propel my own wheelchair because of expensive bike technology, yet penalised for spending money on aids to give me some mobility.

  • Ted Edwards 03/12/2018 4:10 pm

    Unbelievable. It’s not as if automatons are making these decisions. It must be clear to whoever makes the decision that the individual has particular issues and rather than praise them for getting out and doing something positive they instead punish then. What a shame they waste their time making these decisions rather than persuing individuals & companies avoiding paying the correct amount of tax.

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