Disabled people love bikes, not barriers

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Why bikes on a blog about disability art? Part of bringing out the stories of people’s lived experience of disability is to look at disability in daily life, what we do, where we go, how we do it. So, bikes.

Not just any bikes. Handcycles.

I am too late to invite everyone to the annual adaptive bike clinic on the Eastbank Esplanade held three days ago. I missed it again. I first tried handcycling at the clinic in 2005. I was timid and kept dipping a toe on the ground. I rode about an inch at a time. Just as I was giving up, a guy in a wheelchair came up to me and said, “I can’t use my legs at all, and I can ride that bike. So stop using your legs and figure out how to ride it. Balance from your hips.” And I was off. And back. And off again. I only stopped handcycling to test out some other adaptive bikes.

How did I, a bicyclist for over 20 years at that point, need help being confident I could ride a different style of bike? The folks over at Incight have a great word for it: Handicrap (TM). I love that word. (I used it years ago as the title of a performance art piece I wrote critiquing disability stigma well before learning about Incight. I thought I made it up, but I didn’t!)

In the past year, Incight has broadened their definition to include not only self-limiting attitudes but also stigma, judgments, and barriers that we hold against one another related to disability and accommodations. I think it’s similar to the title of this film, “Who Am I To Stop It.” Upending stigma, judgments, and barriers is one of the main goals of why I use this blog as a space for lots of folks to share their experiences. The more stories you get, the more you get to know us, the more we can collaborate.

Oh, handcycles.

Summer Handcycling Series flyer pictures handcyclists crossing a finish line and details of the event, sponsors, and contact information. www.oregondisabilitysports.net.

Starting July 9th, a number of organizations, including Incight, are kicking off a three-month Summer Handcycling Series at Portland International Raceway. This is just what I have been looking for: bikes low to the ground so I won’t lose my balance and fall over plus a dedicated track so I won’t ride into traffic and forget whether the green light means go or turn left. Yes, that has happened. I can’t remember what the signs and lights mean while trying to also balance on an upright bike, so I gave up my dear passion for cycling a couple years ago. Looks like there is an awesome possible solution, though.

Everyone on earth who is also in the Portland area, please join us! If you don’t have your own handcycle, they will, at some point, have several to borrow. Bring your helmet. Lean back and enjoy the ride.