What difference does using your cycle as a mobility aid make to your life? My bike gives me freedom. I am free to roam with almost no pain.
I can go out and enjoy the countryside, I can quickly find places of interest such as cafes, bars and restaurants in unfamiliar towns. I can use it for everyday things like catching a train and then use the bike to finish off a journey instead of needing to pay for a taxi.
When I sit in the saddle on my bike I can feel like a normal human being. It helps raise my self-esteem, no one stares at me on a bike the way they do when I’m in a wheelchair.
What challenges, if any, have you encountered when using your cycle as a mobility aid?
I could write a book on incidents I’ve experienced while trying to use my bike as a mobility aid.
The most notable one would be in Paris after the Tour de France finale. I came off my disabled person’s viewing stand on the Champs Elysees and onto a side street to be met by a police woman who blew a whistle and said “get off the bike and walk”. I tried to explain my disability. I showed her my legs with no muscle, the scars – from operations – and my disabled person’s Blue Badge, but she just insisted “walk or I will arrest you”. A French guy who understood English very well explained to her I was handicapped but she still insisted she would arrest me if I didn’t walk. I said “you will just have to arrest me as I can’t walk”, and started to slowly pedal away. She blew her whistle again and shouted “stop or I will shoot you”. Another policeman came over and told her to put the gun away.
I’ve been escorted out of pedestrian precincts, shopping malls and train stations on umpteen occasions for using the bike as a wheeled support to lean on while I attempt to walk alongside. It’s the usual story – “you can’t bring a bike in here”, “I don’t care if you’re disabled” etc. etc.
If there was one thing that could change to help you to use your cycle as a mobility aid, what would it be?
The answer to this is very simple. If I could clip an officially endorsed disabled person’s badge, such as the wheelchair symbol, on my bike everyone would then know I was disabled and that my bike is my mobility aid.