Oakland Adds Bike Share for People with Disabilities

As part of its efforts to make the city more accessible, its official bikeshare program now includes 'adaptive bikes'

Disabled cyclists enjoy a ride on Oakland's new protected bike lane on Harrison Street along the lake. All pics Streetsblog/Rudick
Disabled cyclists enjoy a ride on Oakland's new protected bike lane on Harrison Street along the lake. All pics Streetsblog/Rudick

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Even people who are unable to ride a conventional bike can now enjoy Oakland’s newest bike infrastructure. The City of Oakland and Lyft, which runs the city’s GoBike bike share program, officially launched a pilot program on Saturday to provide ‘adaptive’ bikes for disabled people.

“I rode my first bike when I was five,” explained Bonnie Lewkowic, who spoke with Streetsblog about her lifelong love of cycling, at the launch event next to Lake Merritt. Almost fifty years ago, an crash on an all-terrain vehicle left her paralyzed. After that, she “wondered how I could still get that thrill” that comes with riding a bike.

Bonnie Lewkowic in her electric wheel chair can now participate in Oakland's bikeshare program through its new adaptive bike pilot
Bonnie Lewkowic in her electric wheel chair can now participate in Oakland’s bikeshare program through its new adaptive bike pilot

The answer came through adaptive bikes–recumbent bikes designed for people who have lost the use of their legs or are otherwise unable to ride a conventional, upright bike. Available bikes include hand-pedal cycles, adaptive trikes, and a side-by-side tandem bike, according to a release from Berkeley-based BORP Adaptive Sports (BORP stands for Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program). Under the pilot, BORP is providing the bikes, the lifts, and assistance to riders. Lewkowic, who already rides BORP bikes twice a week at the Berkeley Marina, says she’s excited that now she’ll have that option at Lake Merritt.

“Cycling transforms people’s lives,” said Greg Milano, BORP’s Adaptive Cycling Manager. “Once people see what’s possible … they’ll be able to take equal advantage of the bike lanes and trails we’ve all invested in over the last decade.”

The program, which will be available to any disabled person with the Lyft bikeshare app, will be free for the first six months. The adaptive bike service will be at the lake on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It will launch at 1335 Lakeshore Ave., but the plan is to move to Snow Park, to provide easier access to BART and Oakland’s newly completed lakeside protected bike lane, which currently goes from Grand to Madison on Harrison and Lakeside Drive. Participants at Saturday’s event looked forward to the day protected bikeways will continue all around the lake–and throughout the city.

Nicole Parsons rides with her dog Russo
Nicole Parsons rides with her dog Russo

“No longer will people with disabilities be an afterthought,” said Frank Sperling of the Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities, which was instrumental in putting the program together. “It took a good year, year and a half to get here today.”

The commission took the city to task for not providing an adaptive component to its official bike-share system during a contentious meeting back in March of 2017. This program, which at the time was just starting to take shape, is the city’s response.

The idea is to start with the pilot and then figure out a long-term strategy for including people with disabilities in the GoBike program. “OakDOT is committed to making all of our shared mobility programs accessible, regardless of physical ability,” said OakDOT Director Ryan Russo, in a written statement. “Through this program with BORP and Lyft, we are greatly increasing the number of Oaklanders who have access to bicycles for recreation.”

“Oakland is proud to be the first city in the Bay Area to launch adaptive bikeshare,” said Anh Nguyen of Oakland’s Department of Transportation.

  • Victoria Fierce

    This is the kind of stuff that Kaplan’s been trying to kill off ever since OakDOT was formed.

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