Frequently Asked Questions
Am I allowed to cycle on the footway when using my cycle as a mobility aid?
Under the Highways Act 1835 riding a pedal cycle of any kind on the footway is an offence. This is enforced by local chief police officers who can issue a one-off fine called a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). In most cases, police officers are advised to use discretion. Guidance issued in 1999, and reaffirmed by government in 2014, says:
“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road. Sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”
Despite this, we know that many Disabled cyclists have been asked to dismount and walk/wheel their cycle, even when they are using it as a mobility aid and despite the fact that for some this is physically impossible. What’s more, under the Use of Invalid Carriages on Highways Regulations (UICHR) 1988 cycles are not listed as a type of mobility aid, or ‘invalid carriage’, which means that they are not permitted on footways or in pedestrianised areas, unlike wheelchairs and mobility scooters. But we also know that around 1 in 10 Disabled cyclists have been allowed to cycle in a pedestrianised area once they’d explained that they were using their cycle as a mobility aid.
Wheels for Wellbeing recognises the great level of uncertainty and confusion that this causes for Disabled cyclists – and the barriers to active travel it creates – which is why we are campaigning for the recognition of cycles as mobility aids.
In 2018, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that it would “explore the feasibility of amending legislation to recognise the use of cycles as a mobility aid” by 2020, as outlined in its Inclusive Transport Strategy. We will be working closely with the DfT to help them develop this policy objective further.
Am I allowed to board a train with my cycle if it is my mobility aid?
Most trains can accommodate wheelchairs, as long as they are not above a certain dimension (700mm wide by 1200mm long). However, where mobility scooters and non-standard cycles are concerned, the rules are less clear.
Generally speaking, most trains will be able to accommodate lightweight mobility scooters (in with the passengers) and fold-up cycles (as luggage in the carriage). Most will also carry standard bicycles when travelling off-peak, subject to space. You may need to book a cycle space in advance. Some operators may expect you to store your cycle in racks or on hooks, which are not always accessible. On some long-distance journeys, cycles may be stored in a guard’s van, separate from the passenger carriages.
To our knowledge, there are no Train Operating Companies that have an explicit policy permitting the storage of non-standard cycles on-board (with the exception of tandems on Avanti Pendolino and LNER trains). Whilst we know of many Disabled cyclists who have been challenged or faced difficulties when attempting to board a train with a non-standard cycle (e.g. a tricycle), we also know of Disabled cyclists who have successfully managed to do so without any problems. In practice, there appears to be variability and inconsistency in the ways in which different Train Operating Companies approach this issue, and it is sometimes left to the discretion of train staff.
Our advice would be to contact the relevant Train Operating Company in advance of your journey and explain to them your situation. Some Disabled people have been able to book assistance with getting their cycle on board via the Passenger Assist scheme – as this blog shows. Cycle policies and contact details for different Train Operating Companies are available on the National Rail website.
Wheels for Wellbeing recognises that many Disabled cyclists rely on multiple modes of transport to get around, but that these are not always integrated and accessible. We also believe that refusing to carry a Disabled person’s cycle can mean removing their ability to travel actively at either end of their journey, forcing them to be dependent on often more expensive motor transport (e.g. car or taxi). That is why we are asking that where rules exist permitting the storage of wheelchairs and mobility scooters on-board trains, the same rules should apply (where physically and practically possible) to Disabled cyclists who use a cycle as a mobility aid.
Non-standard cycles are too expensive. Can I get financial help?
Buying a non-standard cycle, like a handcycle or e-cycle, can be very expensive. But there are several ways in which you might be able to get financial help, depending on your eligibility and individual circumstances. For example:
Access to Work
If you are disabled and in work, you may wish to consider the government’s Access to Work scheme, through which you could be entitled to a grant to help pay for special equipment and adaptations to equipment used for getting to your place of work.
Cycle to Work
Cycle to Work is a salary sacrifice scheme that allows employers to loan cycles and cycle equipment to employees as a tax-free benefit. The Green Commute Initiative is an alternative cycle loan scheme.
In 2019 the Government published new guidance on the Cycle to Work scheme, which will benefit Disabled cyclists by making it easier for employers to provide cycles and e-cycles worth over £1,000 (it was previously understood to be capped at £1,000).
Local authority cycle loan and ‘try before you buy’ schemes
Some local authorities may provide schemes that allow you to loan a cycle, for example a fold-up bicycle or e-cycle, or to try one out before buying it. Peddle My Wheels runs a ‘try before you bike scheme’, with adapted cycles being included in the scheme for those living and/or working in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Croydon and Waltham Forest.
Applying for a grant is an option for those who do not feel they can fund the full purchase of an adapted cycle. There are many grant-giving organisations in the UK, so it’s important to target the ones that are most likely to make you an award.
A charity aimed at supporting people with your impairment or long-term health condition is the best contact point to start your funding search. They will understand your needs better than most and may even be able to help you make an application.
There are many grant-giving organisations in the UK, and so you should ensure that you read all guidance carefully and assess whether an application would be appropriate. It is a good idea to phone or email an organisation in advance of making an application, to check that your request is within their remit.
Grant providers usually require evidence of need before they will approve an application for grant. It is helpful to include a letter or information from a professional, such as a physiotherapist, detailing the benefits that a cycle would bring. Benefits might be improving your physical fitness, enhancing your mental wellbeing, improving your social life, making everyday journeys easier and enabling you to live more independently.
Some starting points for finding a grant provider are listed below:
- Turn2us helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help: http://www.turn2us.org.uk/grants_search.aspx
- Family Fund is the UK’s largest provider of grants to low-income families raising disabled and seriously ill children and young people: http://www.familyfund.org.uk/
- Disability Grants directory: http://www.disability-grants.org/
- Regain Sports Charity: https://regainsportscharity.com/
- Also consider contacting your local Rotary Club: https://my.rotary.org/en/search/club-finder
- And Lions Club: https://www.lionsclubs.org/en/start-our-approach/club-locator
- If the cycle is for a child, try Variety Club Children’s Charity: https://www.variety.org.uk/what-we-do/equipment-grants
- Tomcat also have a very useful page on support with funding: https://tomcatuk.org/support-with-funding/
There are a number of methods, old and new, that you can try to raise funds to help you fund a cycle purchase. In the current climate of social networking and online interaction, individual funds and causes have previously gone viral and surpassed required targets.
- There are opportunities for quick online fundraising through crowdfunding, where you can set your cause and target, and let people back it. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/
- Go Fund Me is recommended by a cyclist who was able to raise over £2,000 to buy their own recumbent trike. http://www.gofundme.com/
- Tree of Hope will help coordinate and promote online fundraising by/for individuals: http://www.treeofhope.org.uk
- There are lots of other traditional ways of raising funds at home, at work, with friends and through simple methods such as a bake sale, a sweepstake or by throwing a party.
- Individual offline fundraising could be a great way to raise contributions towards a cycle purchase as you can personally engage with your networks of friends, family and colleagues and they can really feel a part of your fundraising process.
If you are eligible for social care services, you may receive a Personal Budget/Direct Payment through your local authority to help with your social care and support needs. You may also receive a Personal Health Budget through the NHS to help with your healthcare needs.
We are yet to hear of anyone who has successfully used a personal budget to obtain a non-standard cycle (and it is unclear as to whether this would even be an option, as personal budgets are typically used to buy services), but if you have succeeded in doing so, or know someone who has, we would love to hear from you.
Can I use the Motability scheme to get a non-standard cycle?
Unfortunately, the Motability scheme does not currently allow you to use your mobility allowance to lease a non-standard cycle or e-cycle, on the basis that there is insufficient demand.
At Wheels for Wellbeing, we believe that reducing barriers to Disabled cycling is key to enabling Disabled people who wish to cycle to do so, and the high cost of non-standard cycles is frequently cited as a barrier. We also believe that increasing access to and awareness of the potential for Disabled people to cycle will in turn increase demand for non-standard cycles. We therefore call on the Motability scheme to offer non-standard cycles.
To help bring about change, Motability needs to hear from its customers and potential customers that there is demand in this area. We encourage Disabled cyclists in receipt of the top rate of PIP for mobility to contact Motability and let them know this would be of interest to you.
I’m interested in buying an e-cycle. Can you help?
Most cycle types, including standard bicycles, tricycles and handcycles, are available with electrical assistance (e-assist), or can be retrofitted as such. According to our latest survey, 1 in 5 Disabled cyclists own a cycle that uses e-assist. Wheels for Wellbeing recognises that the cost of e-cycles is a significant barrier to cycling for many Disabled people, which is why we are campaigning for greater investment in and subsidies for e-cycles.
If you are in work and interested in buying an e-cycle, we would recommend taking a look at the Cycle to Work scheme. You may also wish to consider the Government’s Access to Work scheme, through which you could be entitled to a grant to help pay for special equipment and adaptations to equipment used for getting to your place of work. It’s also worth checking to see if your local authority runs a cycle loan or ‘try before you buy’ scheme.
If you live in London, we would suggest taking a look at E-bikes London, through which you can take a free test ride on an e-cycle before considering what you want to buy.
The 2020 Gear Change report announced government plans for an e-bike grant or support scheme, but details of how this scheme would work have not yet been published.
Interest-free loans for e-bikes or adaptive cycles are available in Scotland through the Energy Saving Trust.
Can I claim VAT relief on a non-standard cycle?
Unfortunately, the answer to this is not straight-forward.
If you’re disabled or have a long-term illness then you won’t be charged VAT on a product for your own personal or domestic use if it has been designed or adapted solely and exclusively for use by a Disabled person. A product that meets your Disability needs but has not been design specifically for Disabled people will not qualify for VAT relief. For example, an adaptive cycle for a Disabled person would qualify (it has been design specifically for a Disabled person’s use), but an e-assist adaptation for a cycle would not (it has been designed for use by either able-bodied or Disabled people). It should state in a manufacturer’s specification report whether or not a cycle was solely designed for use by a Disabled person).
According to the government’s guidance on VAT relief: “Equipment or appliances designed for general use or designed for use by disabled and able-bodied people alike won’t qualify for VAT relief”.
Based on this guidance, an assumption might reasonably be made that some types of non-standard cycle do not qualify for VAT relief because they can be, and often are, used by both disabled and non-disabled people alike (take recumbent trikes, for instance). Conversely, other types of non-standard cycle, such as handcycles, are unlikely to be purchased by anyone other than a Disabled person, and so you might reasonably expect to claim VAT relief on such a product. However, in practice, the experiences of Disabled cyclists is mixed.
Wheels for Wellbeing believes that existing guidance on VAT and non-standard cycles is inadequate and unclear. Given the range of non-standard cycles available, and the varying needs of Disabled cyclists, we are calling on the government to commit to reviewing existing guidance so that disabled customers have clarity and confidence on this issue.