Cycling is hugely popular, as well as surprisingly adaptable, making it one of the most accessible sports in the world.
Why Cycling is One of the Most Adaptable and Accessible Sports in the World
All cyclists know the familiar feeling of movement, freedom and independence that comes with propelling yourself on your own pedal-power. And it's this feeling which makes cycling so popular with a whole range of people with learning or physical disabilities.
Many disabilities leave people feeling trapped and isolated within their condition, with little or no independence. Cycling can allow disabled people to feel liberated from their condition – free to move independently.
Cycling is accessible to all because bikes can be adapted to meet the needs of any individual – from people with visual impairment to learning difficulties, to those with limited or no lower mobility. Whatever stands in the way of independence, there is a two-wheeled solution.
Here is a guide to the adapted bikes available:
Adding an extra wheel to a bike means that the rider does not need to be able to balance. This small change makes cycling accessible to those with learning disabilities, or people recovering from a stroke.
While conventional tandem bikes are not seen as specially designed disability bikes, they are extremely popular with a huge range of disabled people.
One inspired use of the tandem bicycle is to make cycling accessible to visually impaired people. The cycling charity, Life Cycle, have developed a successful programe of tandem rides in the Bristol area.
A team of volunteers pair up with visually impaired riders, and explore cycle paths in and around Bristol. With the volunteer in control of the bike, the visually impaired rider can still enjoy the feeling of motion and the exercise of pedaling.
Paul Barnett took part in the scheme and said:
“Two's Company’s done a great job in opening up cycling to so many more people, as well as showing the larger cycling community that there's a multitude of ways to cycle. And I'm really grateful to you for welcoming me and my children and triggering the cycling bug.”
However, there are also ways of adapting tandem bikes to meet the needs of different disabilities. This next idea is from the Netherlands – the Dutch lead the way when it comes to cycling, and with adapted bikes, this is no different.
Steer-from-the-rear Tandem bicycles have been developed, which allow the disabled rider to sit at the front of the bike to experience the world around them, instead of staring at their companions back. This is a great for those with learning disabilities, as the experience is very similar to riding a standard bike on your own.
Tandems can also be adapted to the One-Up-One-Down style, where the rider at the front has a lowered seat instead of saddle – perfect for those who want to pedal but have limited upper body mobility.
This bike style is an adaption of the tricycle to accommodate to riders side by side. Each rider pedals independently, but the rider on the left has control of the steering. This is another bike which makes cycling accessible to those with learning disabilities.
For those with limited or no lower body mobility, the Hand-Cycle is a liberating invention. The bike operates on the same pedal-powered principle as a traditional bike but using hands to turn a wheel, which in turn drives the chain around the bicycle wheels.
Hand cycles are also great for people with joint problem such as arthritis and for those looking rebuild upper body strength after a serious illness.
Another way to increase the accessibility of cycling has simply been to attach a wheel chair to a bike. The Road-Going Wheelchair, has the wheelchair attached to the front, and a bike at the back – similar to the design of a tandem. This provides the feeling of cycling for those who can't pedal.
Here are just a few ways which bikes can be adapted to the needs of an individual, showing that cycling is a hugely adapted sport. The principle of using pedal-power to propel yourself can altered and adapted to create many different bikes, all with the same core idea – to move independently.
You can see an extensive guide to Disability Cycling here, compiled by Get Cycling.
Cycling can greatly improve the lives of many people – it provides freedom and independence, as well as being a great way to keep fit and enjoy the outdoors.
Do you have any experiences of how cycling has improved our life? Share your stories below.