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Published on June 5th, 2017 | by Cynthia Shahan


Portland & Detroit To Start Physically Accessible Adaptive Bike Rental Systems

June 5th, 2017 by  

US National Bike to Work Week just passed and the League of American Bicyclists congratulated 34 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Businesses (BFBs) as part of the festivities. “They join 1,343 businesses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that have earned BFB status.”

This coming month, something else very fresh and inclusive appears for bicycle lovers: Portland and Detroit plan to start renting “adaptive bicycles,” physically accessible bicycle. Adaptive bikes are additions to these cities’ existing or upcoming bikeshare programs.

The bikes allow people to trade in that walker or wheelchair for something a bit more efficient and most likely more fun.

Riding a bicycle is not what you think of when you think of disabled people. But it might be soon. Times are changing. Bicycling should not be off limits for many disabled people. In fact, all that blood bouncing around and circulating in the brain is sure to improve or mitigate common problems disabled people face. And, indeed, everyone needs exercise and transportation. Certainly, bicycles for so-called normal people with all their senses top notch are a good thing, but the need for exercise does not discriminate.

Portland’s bikeshare program is clearly going that distance more than most bikeshare systems. Here are more details from the Better Bike Share partnership if you want a closer look:

“Planning for the $30,000 pilot project got started after the city was approached by community members seeking accessible alternatives to the BIKETOWN bike share system and city council candidates became vocal on the issue.”

“The project is designed out of what we’ve heard to date from potential users on what they would like in renting an adaptive bike,” says Steve Hoyt-McBeth, an operations manager at the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Hoyt-McBeth reveals the city started by connecting with disability groups in Portland. As well, they were conducting an online survey that received about 130 responses. “Staff quickly learned that there is no single ‘disability community’. Instead, there are a wide variety of smaller communities, such as individuals who have visual impairments, those with spinal cord injuries, and those who have experienced a traumatic brain injury. Learning to see each group as unique was important for moving forward.”

“Portland discovered that residents with disabilities didn’t want a replica of the existing bike share system. Instead, they were looking for a service that could help them get onto the rental bikes, as well as keep their assistive devices safe while they rode. They were also looking for easy parking and transit access to the site where they could rent the bikes, as well as the ability to ride on multi-use trails, rather than city streets.”

That all makes plenty of sense, but it means a very different approach to bikesharing. “Hoyt-McBeth says the City hopes to eventually offer three types of adaptive bikes: 1) Handcycles for those who can’t propel a bike with their legs, 2) tricycles for those with balance issues, and 3) tandem bikes, so a seeing individual could ride with someone visually impaired. A working group is helping to refine the system concept.”

With all of this great bike news, can you imagine what bicycling would be like in a car-free city? There are many car-free city centers in Europe. In the United States, we have the unique and endearing Mackinac Island, where cars have been banned since those early horseless monsters dictated city policy. (The residents apparently said “No No No” to the awful and interfering noise and smelly exhaust.)

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Images: Adaptable bicycles by J. Maus/BikePortland and Mackinac Island by tvanhoosear (CC BY 2).



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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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