28 January 2017
I will never forget the moment five years ago when I got on a bicycle for the first time in years, and found I could still ride it!
My heart was in my mouth when the man from Cyclemobility, a Leicester charity helping disabled people get on their bikes, sadly since closed, told me just to give a standard bike a try. I had not been sure if I could balance, and felt like I had just won the Tour de France, as a whole new mobile world which had been gradually closing around me (I have MS), opened up again.
The sense of freedom and being in control was so wonderful, I quickly became hooked. I love my bicycles, as for me, they are vital mobility aids which keep me fit, happy, and mobile. Cycling means my whole city is accessible to me, and this is empowering. I have one standard bike, and an electric bike for longer journeys, and I can manage with the only adaptations needed being a special pedal to stop my foot slipping.
It’s not always easy as a disabled cyclist in Leicester though, as cycle paths are sporadic, and intermittent. I therefore have to use the pavement at times, breaking the law and getting tuts from angry pedestrians. I do my best to avoid pavements where I possibly can, and have put blue badge stickers on my bicycles. However, I think it’s discriminatory that I cannot have my bikes listed as mobility aids, and that journeys I am allowed to do by mobility scooter are not allowed by bike. The law is lagging behind the reality of living as a disabled person.
So, what am I doing about this? as a local activist in my community, I am trying to get a local byelaw changed, so that disabled cyclists can use walkways where bicycles are not allowed at the moment. We need to educate pedestrians and cyclists, too, as it is not just about the law. Cyclists, including disabled cyclists, must cycle responsibly, but pedestrians need to know that we have the right to be there.
Nationally , as Disability Spokesperson for the Green Party, I have raised this issue with the DVLA, my MP, my party, and charities such as WheelsforWellbeing. I am sure that with our combined efforts and a bit of determination, we can get the law changed, as I for one am unwilling to give up my bikes!