Cycling is booming, as it’s a cheap, socially distanced way of getting around that’s fun and gives you exercise. Great if you’re young and athletic, but what if you’re older, disabled or have health problems?
According to disabled cycling charity Wheels For Wellbeing, increasing numbers of disabled people are cycling, as it aids mental and physical health and provides independence.
The biggest barrier is lack of facilities, including safe cycle lanes and secure storage.
Bricycles, the Brighton and Hove Cycling Campaign, is doing its best to promote cycling for people of all ages and mobilities, and has spoken with a number of people who enjoy the freedom, convenience and health benefits of cycling.
Heloise Peligry, 27, is unable to walk unaided. She has been cycling since she was six, when her mums Claire and Lizzie got her an adapted trike through charity Whizz-Kidz.
Lizzie said: “Heloise loves cycling along the seafront. Because she’s higher up than in her wheelchair, she feels part of the community. And the exercise is great for her physical and mental health.
“She needs help steering but pedals herself – and balance is not an issue as her legs and trunk are supported.
“Getting her on the trike can be tricky and we’re looking forward to the new Inclusive Cycle Hub, which will have a hoist.
“We could do with secure cycle storage in town as it would save us having to transport the trike in our car.
“With the right equipment and infrastructure we can really open up life for our disabled daughter.”
Amanda Massey broke her neck in an accident and uses an electric trike to get around. She said: “I used to cycle regularly until I became disabled.
“I live off the Old Shoreham Road and as soon as I saw them putting in the temporary lanes, I got my e-trike.
“I use the cycle lanes a lot and I love to see kids using them to get to school. I drive too – I’m a blue badge holder – so I see things from various perspectives.
“I’m really proud of my new trike and of Brighton and Hove City Council for their response to keeping us all safe and mobile.
“Enablism is everything for people like me and the wider community.”
Sculptor Chris Macdonald, 82, gets around town on his bright orange electric bike. He said: “On foot, I can do about 400 metres before my arthritis makes me stop, so my bike is a lifesaver.
“On the bus, it can take up to an hour to get to the hospital, but by bike it’s a guaranteed 20 minutes. Journeys are easier and more enjoyable by bike, plus I get exercise.
“We could do with more protected cycle lanes as sometimes motorists beep at me angrily for going slowly.
“Having an electric bike means I don’t need a mobility scooter and I get to look cool at the same time!”
Nikki Ward has MS. She used to be a mobile hairdresser, using her bike, but stopped cycling when a relapse led to a loss of strength and balance.
She said: “It took me a while to get my electro-assist trike, as they’re not cheap, but my aunt helped me buy it.
“We also had to get work done on the house to accommodate it – cycle storage is difficult in Brighton.
“I no longer cycle for work – I’m now an artist – but go out on my trike nearly every day and do about 15 miles.
“My favourite routes are the Undercliff Path to Rottingdean and through the locks to Shoreham.
“Because my trike has a big basket, I can do a weekly shop without problems. I live in a hilly part of Brighton, so the electro-assist is essential! I love my trike – it’s my freedom.”
Todd Arnold suffers from a neurological illness, which means he has problems with balance, and has osteoarthritis in one knee.
He said: “On my bike, I don’t have problems balancing, and there’s no weight on my knee, meaning it’s easier to cycle than walk.
“Physical exercise really helps my mood and it’s a good way to lose weight. Cycling makes me feel free, and gives me a wonderful sense of achievement.
“Lockdown was stressful, but it was magical to cycle along the Lewes Road and see it empty of cars for minutes at a time. Cycling is a big part of my life.”
Chris Williams is project officer at the Brighton and Hove cycling campaign group Bricycles.
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