Being deaf while mixing with traffic on a bike poses unique challenges.
What if you couldn’t hear the ring of the bell or the “on your left” so many of us rely on? What if the person you were passing or riding next to was Deaf? How would know? You wouldn’t. Unless of course, they had some sort of sign to make it clear.
Portlander Carrie Brewer, 31, knows this problem intimately. She is Deaf and she loves to ride bikes. When she sustained a serious injury from a crash with another rider, Carrie was inspired to do something about it. She has launched DeafBikeSigns.com to help identify those folks in the bikeway who can’t hear you.
“It was a solution to my own problem, a simple answer to the real problem.”
— Carrie Brewer, DeafBikeSigns.com
On her website, people can choose from a catalog of embroidered patches that include words like “Deaf Cyclist” and the international symbol for bicycling and the word “Deaf.”
I asked Carrie to share a bit more about herself, what it’s like to bike without hearing, and about her inspiration for DeafBikeSigns.com.
Carrie is a northeast Portland resident who works as a web designer. In her spare time, she says, “I am also involved with a couple of organizations to help build community between Deaf and the Hearing.”
Carrie has ridden a commuter bike for years, but bought a nice road bike in 2009. That’s when she, “began to fall in love with cycling.” She’s now trying to learn as much as she can about riding; but without being able to chat with other people, it’s hard to learn the nuances of training, technique and equipment.
“There is a con I have always wished I could be able to do, chat with the other cyclists during a group ride. This is where you learn the massive part about the cycling sport or how to make yourself a better rider. I am never able to do that, I just humbly ride behind them and miss out all the little details.”
Carrie sees many free bicycling workshops and clinics being offered around town, but never any that come with an interpreter. “I have to work in effort to get them with interpreters in advance of weeks if I wanted to go.” Without an interpreter, she gets frustrated and doesn’t grasp what’s being said. “I have many frustrations,” she wrote, “as I want to learn as much as I can about riding.”
When Carrie does ride, she wants to enjoy the road and the experience like everyone else. One of her motivations to create DeafBikeSigns.com was that she was tired of having to constantly look over her shoulder to see if someone was coming up behind her.
“I want to focus on myself,” she shared with me via email, “worry about vehicles and the biking itself, not on the other cyclists.” Being Deaf, Carrie feels it’s her, “extra responsibility” to think of other riders and to make sure she’s not in their way.
One way to alleviate the stress of bicycling for people who are Deaf is to be in a group of other Deaf riders. One way people are connecting locally is through the Deaf Bicycle Group of Portland Facebook page.
There’s also a local group called Deaf Power Organization that does regular group rides. Carrie joined them on the Seattle to Portland (STP) ride. She notes that there are a lot of new riders who are Deaf and she’s working hard to connect with them and form even larger groups.
About the signs, Carrie says she just wants to make bicycling easier and more enjoyable for others.
“It was a solution to my own problem, a simple answer to the real problem. But then I know there are many other Deaf cyclists that face the same problems so I wanted to help them too, not just myself.”
Watch for these patches in a bikeway near you! To learn more, check out DeafBikeSigns.com.