In our campaigning to make Active Travel accessible for Disabled people, we frequently talk about the need for inclusive language. Gradually, the Active Travel sector is beginning to take notice – the recent Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Report, despite its title, discussed ‘Cycling, Walking, and Wheeling’ rather than just ‘Cycling and Walking’. This change in language is important, as it automatically includes more people in the conversation, and reminds those planning and promoting these projects that they need to consider those whose wheels aren’t attached to a cycle.
However, there’s sometimes still confusion about what different phrases mean: does ‘walking’ include ‘using a rollator’? What’s the difference between ‘wheeling’ and ‘cycling’, or ‘wheeling’ and ‘walking’? We thought we’d offer some definitions:
Walking: foot/pedestrian-based mobility that may incorporate the support of aids to mobility such as stick/s, cane/s, crutch/es, the arm of another person and/or assistance animal/s.
Wheeling: an equivalent alternative to foot/pedestrian-based mobility. Includes wheeled mobilities such as manual self- or assistant-propelled wheelchairs, including wheelchairs with power attachments or all-terrain attachments (such as the “Freewheel”), powered wheelchairs, mobility scooters (three and four-wheeled) and rollators. Some people rely on their cycle to move (at a pedestrian’s pace) through pedestrianised environments when it is not physically possible to walk/push their cycle. Some people use their cycle as a walking aid, by leaning on it (do not use crutches but need to lean in order to walk, due to pain etc. – they can dismount but cannot park their cycle). Some people use e-scooters (with or without a seat), to wheel/scoot through pedestrianised environment if they cannot walk unaided.
We recommend never using ‘walking’ on its own (as it likely reinforces ableist stereotypes in people’s minds) but always using ‘walking/wheeling’ together. Both words represent the action of moving at a pedestrian’s pace, whether or not someone is standing or sitting, walking/wheeling unaided or using any kind of aid to mobility, including walking aids / wheeled aids, personal assistants or support animals.
Cycling: incorporates the action of moving at speed on a wide range of pedal-powered wheeled transport that may be powered with hands and/or feet, may transport one or more person, may or may not include e-assist and usually have between 2 and 4 wheels.