BikePortland

‘Bike First!’ is back and ready to teach people with disabilities how to ride


Person riding an adaptive bike in a gym with helpers running alongside them.

A Bike First! participant on a modified bike in 2009.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

After a two year hiatus, the Bike First! camp will return to Portland for its 15th year. This camp is hosted by the Northwest Down Syndrome Association and All Born (In), organizations managed by the nonprofit Northwest Disability Support. The Bike First! camp helps young people and adults with disabilities learn how to ride adaptive bikes in a fully supportive environment.

The Bike First! camp started in 2006, after founder Ann Donaca-Sullivan’s son Cody, who was 10 at the time, told her he wanted to ride a bike but he didn’t know how. Cody has Down Syndrome, and needed some extra help to be able to ride with his friends. Since then, 500 people with disabilities have gone through the camp to learn skills they needed to be comfortable riding bikes, training with special adaptive bikes at the camp.

Donaca-Sullivan received an Alice B. Toeclips Award for her work in 2008.

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“The benefit of riding a bike is that our kids get to be healthy and get to be included. They’re going on rides with their families, and they’re meeting their friends to ride their bikes,” Donaca-Sullivan said in a promotional video (below) several years ago. “It helps other people see they need to be included.”

The camp will also offer courses for people who don’t have disabilities but also haven’t learned to ride a bike or need a tune-up on their skills.

Bike First! week will be from June 20 to June 24 this year, with a mandatory volunteer and family meeting on June 19, and is open to anyone over the age of 8. The Quick Start/Refresher courses for people without disabilities will be held from June 22 to June 24 and are open to people 5 and up. Previously, this camp has taken place at Concordia University, but this year it will be held at De La Salle North Catholic High School in Northeast Portland.

The camp has spots available for 45 participants to become new bicyclists this summer, and they’re also looking for volunteers. The full-week camp costs $250 and the Quick Start/Refresher classes cost $150, but there are scholarships available. You can sign up to volunteer or participate here.

Below is a Bike First! promotional video…

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