After years of watching cyclists pedal along the streets of Portland without being able to tag along due to physical impairment, the city’s inclusive bike-share program “Adaptive Biketown” kicked off in late July. The program invites people with physical disabilities and mobility challenges to join the cyclist community in their parade of equality.
There are more than 17,000 workers in Portland who cycle to work, which represents 7.2% of the city’s commuters. Adaptive Biketown offers different kinds of tandems, hand cycles, and three-wheeled bikes for rent per hour, and is a collaboration between Portland Bureau of Transportation and Nike. The city spent $35,000 coupled with $10,000 coming in from Nike. Other bike-relevant organizations are joining the bike-share program this year, like Kerr Bikes and Different Spokes.
According to the latest census, which was conducted between 2005 and 2007, there are 549,640 people with disabilities in Oregon, which represent 16% of the state’s population. Last year, Portland’s disabled community was appalled by the city’s Biketown, which included a thousand orange bicycles without any consideration to those who could not join due to their physical impairment.
“This is the way that a lot of these kinds of programs go,” said a well-known member of the Portland cycling community, Jeremy Robbins, who rides a hand cycle because he is quadriplegic. “But I would have thought that the city of Portland would have a greater vision of inclusivity and equality.”
Even Chloe Eudaly, a Portland city commissioner who has a child with disabilities, wrote a post denouncing the exclusiveness of last year’s Biketown on her electoral campaign’s Facebook page: “It’s exciting to finally be getting a bike share program, but I was disappointed to find out that the program excludes people with mobility challenges. How is a 1,000 bike program without a single adapted bike equitable or inclusive?” she asked.
Back in 2009, Mexico City launched its first bike-share program for the blind and visually impaired. For safer access, the bike rides were guided by volunteers on tandem bikes. The bike rides took place on Sunday mornings, when a few streets in the historic center of the city are closed to pedestrians and human powered vehicles.
“It’s very gratifying to hear the people’s comments, the feeling of the wind, the concept of enjoying the city in a different way. We’ve had people that had been blind only two or three years, and going back into a bike is such a beautiful experience for them: to be able to do something that they did and couldn’t do anymore,” said one of the cycling guides, Nancy Salcedo.
The title of this article was changed from “Adaptive Biketown: Bike-Share For The Disabled” to “Adaptive Biketown: Portland’s Bike-Share For The Disabled” on 3 May, 2018. This article was also edited for clarity.