Biketown, sigh, sigh, sigh

Listen to this post: 

This isn’t the first time I’ve written on this blog about adaptive bicycles, how glorious they are, and what they represent. They represent adaptability and innovation. They also represent a more holistic, fair symbol of inclusion. Not the kind of inclusion where you have to be or act as non-disabled as possible to be granted the esteemed luxury of participating in the general offerings of society. (The ones that are often inaccessible by design, thanks, no thanks.) Nopers.

I love the kind of inclusion that says, “You need to pedal a bike with your arms? Great. We have that bike. Your balance sucks, and you can’t be high up? Great. We have that bike. Don’t have arms or hands to hold the bars? Great. We have that bike. Need to bike with a partner to help navigate or power the bike?” Guess what my answer will be! Yep. You’re onto me.

Portland does have that bike. We have lots of kinds of them. I’ve ridden so many different adapted bicycles in Portland whether at a demonstration put on by Portland Parks and Recreation Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation or the PDX Summer Handcycling Series. I don’t need an adapted bike, but I like them and they’re fun and they’re inclusive.

A red three-wheeled cycle, low to the ground. Pedals are attached to the front wheel and are operated by hand.

A green attachment that attaches to a wheelchair to convert it into a three-wheeled cycle.Now, even though the City of Portland actually has a commission on disability (called the…Portland Commission on Disability), and we have actual disabled people living in this city, my mind is blown to absolute smithereens of ragey-sad disbelief that the City proudly is unveiling Biketown bike-sharing program with NO accessible or adapted bikes on offer.

Excuse me, Portland–and exceptionally angry online commenters who believe that if “the disabled” can have their bikes, we’re going to hell in a handbasket (not an orange bike basket with a Nike logo on it)–you were never asked to invent adaptive bikes. They’re already here in this city, and the handcycle series sometimes even imports them in for the summer. How on earth did no one notice during the planning phase that you a) left out people with disabilities and b) didn’t notice. Yes, I’m asking you to notice that you didn’t notice. Perhaps it’s not malicious to “forget about” entire swaths of people, but it’s still beyond my comprehension how it happens at the City level, and you owe us more than an apology. You owe us bikes.

In our capitalist society, disabled people are demonized for not doing enough or being active enough. Then, when we point out that we need a couple of accessible bikes, we’re slammed for how demanding and selfish we are. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And in health-conscious, fitness-obsessed middle and upper class circles, we love to preach about humans were designed to move, and that sitting too much will kill you! So get out there and exercise, but we won’t give you any adaptive bikes.

On the Bike Portland website, activist and advocate Chloe Eudaly makes many great points: this isn’t equitable, you’re encouraging and reinforcing isolation, and um, federal law. It’s getting close to the time when I’m about to pull out the sighs again. Oops: sigh, sigh, sigh. Because if equity, decency, and compassion can’t drive you to do it, and even the law can’t drive you to do it, goodness.

Fortunately, Sue Stahl is in touch with Disability Rights Oregon to deal with the federal violation occurring here since the bike-sharing program is in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. There are loads of other activists who all deserve to be thanked for making a well-deserved stink about this.

It’s not like bike shares are inherently equitable to begin with, as the users might tend to represent whiter and wealthier parts of a city than the city as a whole.

I can’t wait to keep track of where this goes, see how the City responds, and remember to ignore the trolls in the comments.