People with Disabilities Find Mobility Through “Wheels for Wellbeing”

Wheels for Wellbeing, a UK program, helps get people with physical disabilities cycling and challenges conventional notions that equate their mobility with automobile dependency.

Using tricycles, handcycles and recumbent cycles, participants discover that there are options for nearly anyone to enjoy the freedom of cycling. For these folks, the health benefits that come with their improved mobility can be particularly powerful in treating their illnesses.

H/T to

  • Beautiful.

  • taomom

    I agree, the video is beautiful. But the lack of infrastructure when they go out to ride on the street makes me want to weep. Maybe this will put to rest the oft heard (even on this blog) argument that we shouldn’t divert car space to bike space because only the young and able-bodied can bicycle?

    Active, self-propelled transportation creates health, both mental and physical. Bicycling on safe infrastructure is healthier for children, seniors and the differently-abled than riding in a car. By not providing safe access to walking and bicycling in our city and forcing people into cars as the only safe means of transport, we are actively harming the populace of our city. (I won’t even mention the asthma and cancer from car pollution, etc.) With electric-assist, even if a disabled person lived on a hill, they could still get around better via bike than by Muni.

  • wheelchairgirl

    For the record: there’s an awful lot of us disabled folks who cannot, for health reasons, travel under our own power. I am one; anyone in a motorized wheelchair is probably one. And I’ll bet that a good number of the people in that video are in the category of “sometimes”; there are many conditions which wax and wane, meaning that some days one can bike, other days one can’t get out of bed at all.

    That said, many of us who require a wheelchair cannot afford a car because disabled modifications for a vehicle can be extremely expensive.

    While I am always glad to see the bike community recognize that disabled folks exist and may even be PART of your community, the idea that all of us can bike remains a cruel and insensitive fallacy.

    Back when I used a chair with air-pumped tires, I could rarely get a biker to stop and lend me an air pump or a hand using it when I had a flat. These days in my power wheelchair I find bicyclists riding unsafely on the sidewalks, parking bikes across travel paths, in my way on ramps, and generally not sensitive to my and other wheelchairs’ needs. And I keep hearing the “everyone should bicycle” nonsense.

    We should be on the same side here – we both want better sidewalks, safer streets, and (I hope) better public transit. But invariably I find that cyclists are insensitive to the needs of the disabled.

  • I’m sorry you have had that experience wheelchairgirl. I’d say that is more a symptom of those people’s character, not as a reflection of them as cyclists.

    Also, I didn’t get the impression from the video that every disabled person should bike, but rather that those who are able should have the opportunity.

  • wheelchairgirl – there are a lot of self-centered people out there. I try to “fix” them one person at a time when I fix THEIR tires out on the road.

    As for parking – we’re trying to get the parking moved to the street – but those pesky motorists keep screaming that we’re destroying their way of life.

  • taomom


    I can see that my remarks could be interpreted as an assertion that all disabled people can bicycle. Obviously this is not so, and I apologize for not being clearer. And I agree that bicyclists should not ride on crowded sidewalks, block ramps, etc.

    To reduce bicycle encroachment on sidewalk space and to provide opportunity for all people (disabled and otherwise) who wish to bike, the answer, I believe, is safe, physically-separated bicycle infrastructure. Sidewalks are bumpy and full of obstacles; in general cyclists will vastly prefer a smooth, safe stretch of road when it is available to them.

    Evidence from other countries shows that the vast majority of people between the ages 8 and 80 are capable of active, self-propelled transportation. This video shows that some disabled people find bicycling easier than walking. It seems especially cruel to deny these folks self-powered mobility through unsafe streets.

  • Aaron Bialick


    I apologize if you felt the phrase “nearly anyone” was overgeneralizing, but I think the idea is that the benefits of using some form of cycle are possible for more people than may generally be thought of.

    Thousands of different people make trips by bicycle in San Francisco every day, some of them perhaps inconsiderate at times, just like the rest of the people I suspect you are forced to deal with on a daily basis who participate in all sorts of other activities. I would doubt that most of those who ride bikes in this city necessarily feel they’re part of a community based on their choice of transport – it’s just the way many people get around. So if we are to be careful about overgeneralizing, I’m not sure the statement “cyclists are insensitive to the needs of the disabled” is exactly accurate.

    By the way, it could be that the people you’re trying to flag down for a pump don’t have one. I personally don’t know of anyone that carries one around.

  • ZA

    You don’t have to go to the UK to find amazing organizations and people moving with disabilities.

  • A couple of decades ago, I was a member of the Berkeley Transportation Commission. When I bicycled to Commission meetings, I would often meet another commissioner who used an electric wheelchair. We would usually meet about one mile from the commission meeting.

    With me bicycling and him riding his electric wheelchair, both of us in the bike lanes, I had trouble keeping up with him. Usually, I would have to tell him to go ahead, that I would see him at the meeting.

    Two morals to this story:

    People who are in electric wheelchairs and who cannot bicycle are not necessarily auto dependent. You can get around on an electric wheelchair just as well as on a bicycle. (Of course, people in wheelchairs and people generally are auto-dependent when they live in neighborhoods that are built around the automobile or that have unsafe streets.)

    Bicyclists and wheelchair users have a common interest in promoting bike lanes and safe streets for bicycling. We might do better to call them lanes and safe streets for slower vehicles – including bicycles, electric wheelchairs, and other low-power vehicles.

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