I had a car accident 9 months ago. It wasn’t all that serious, but it has left me with ongoing hip and lower back pain. One of the effects is that I haven’t been able to walk anywhere near as far as I did before the accident. I have struggled to walk for more than 10 minutes without sitting down. I’d get pain, burning or numbness from my hip all the way down my left leg.
A couple of months after the accident, one of my people suggested that I should get an electric bike. I wasn’t convinced. They are expensive, heavy and I am not the most coordinated person (dyspraxia is a developmental coordination disorder, after all). Over the previous summer I’d tried to learn to cycle again, and I hadn’t been able to coordinate myself to manage to steer, pedal and look over my shoulder. I was fine when going straight, but roads and corners were not ideal for me.
I decided to look around and try out an electric bike. I have to say, I fell in love instantly. I tried it once and found myself considerably more competent when I didn’t have to peddle so hard going around corners and when looking over my shoulder. A major win there! After that, I found that riding the bike gave me a previously never imagined level of freedom. Movement on it is a lot easier than walking. I can go further. I can stop outside most shops rather than parking a much greater distance away. I don’t experience anything like the pain that I did when I walked – cycling for an hour is less painful to me than walking for 10 minutes. I was 100% won over.
I started thinking about whether my bike is a mobility aid. I think it might be. I got to wondering whether I had any rights around its use under the equality act. The reason I questioned this is because I have found two key limitations to my newfound freedom. First, my home city has a bike free zone in the center of town. It means that it is an area that I don’t go into. I’d like to be able to. Second, there are limits around taking bikes on trains, which there aren’t for other kinds of mobility equipment. Because my bike dramatically increased my ability to get around, I really want to take it with me when I go away, and the train is the best way for me to do that.
So, my new project is to write to both my local council and also train companies to attempt to assert my right to use my bike as a mobility aid. I would like them to waive restrictions in the town center and also to allow me to take my bike on the train even if the bike spaces are full. I’ll keep you up to date with my progress.
There are a couple of other people writing about bikes as accessibility aids. For example, this is a great blog post looking at the cycling infrastructure and how it affects people with mobility impairments. This is another one hailing bikes as a fab new mobility aid. Even the Department for Transport has said that it will encourage the use of bikes as a mobility aid! There is even a charity that promotes cycling as an inclusive activity; Wheels for wellbeing.