Events like Sunday Parkways are known as “open streets” events. But for people who don’t feel comfortable riding in a crowd of people or who don’t have access to a bicycle due to their special needs, the event can feel closed.
61-year-old Forest Grove resident Chris Billman got a new lease on life when he discovered cycling.
He was born with scoliosis and suffers from a litany of degenerative issues including spinal stenosis and liver disease. He needs a cane to walk, and when he does, his legs can go numb.
But put his feet on pedals and everything changes.
Billman started riding years ago by putting upright “chopper” handlebars on a Schwinn 10-speed — a fine set-up for cruising around the neighborhood. Then in 2015 he invested in a recumbent and everything changed. “I was off and flying!” he told me during a phone call earlier this week in the voice of someone decades younger.
“They wanted to give me drugs, but the bicycle is better than opiates!”
— Chris Billman
“When I get on the bike I’m bent over like a pretzel,” he said. “But after I get on it my back is straight. If I can do that twice a week I’m in good shape. They wanted to give me drugs, but the bicycle is better than opiates!”
In fact they’re not just bicycles, they’re his personal mobility devices as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Billman is currently the only Oregon resident with a disabled permit decal for his bicycle.
After its initial run, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is calling their Adaptive Biketown program a success and plans to bring it back this spring.
The program launched in July of last year and ran through the end of October. According to PBOT stats released last month, there were 59 total rentals to 27 unique participants.
One of the people who used the service was Chris Pangilinan. He was profiled in a PBOT blog post and said the experience, “Opened up a whole new world for me to explore Portland, spend time with friends, and get exercise.” Here’s more from Panilinan via PBOT:
Chris surprised himself when he and his friend Jeff Mack rode all the way to Milwaukie and back (over 11 miles!). For Chris, being able to ride is “hugely important… It’s indescribable what the freedom is like to get on a bike if you’ve never been on one before. Most people take it for granted, because they grew up on one, but to go from wheelchairing and riding buses to actually riding a bike is just a whole new level. And I’m not even going to even try to describe it, because I can’t, you have to go do it yourself to understand!”
One of Portland’s most persistent advocates for the rights of people with disabilities has died. Sue Stahl passed away on November 14th. She was 42 years old.
Stahl was a fixture in the fight to make Portland’s streets work better for all people, not just those in cars and on bikes. Her impressive advocacy resume included: Chair of the Portland Commission on Disability, board member of Oregon Walks, member of the City of Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and much more. She also ran for Portland City Council (against Steve Novick) last year.
BikePortland readers probably recall Stahl’s name in our coverage about the lack of adaptive bikes in Portland’s Biketown bike share system. Stahl began asking the Portland Bureau of Transportation about the accessibility of the system as far back as March 2016 — three months before it was due to launch.
It’s a big weekend for cyclocross as the River City Bicycles Cyclocross Crusade series heads to Bend for their annual Halloween festivities.
This year — in addition to the usual two full days of racing, legendary costume contest, and huge blowout party sponsored by Deschutes Brewery on Saturday night — organizers have something new up their sleeve: an adaptive bike race.
The Crusade’s Halloween party has been a benefit for the nonprofit Oregon Adaptive Sports for the past several years. According to Sherry Schwenderlauf with the Cyclocross Crusade, the Bend chapter of OAS reached out earlier this year in hopes of allowing its members to try their handcycling skills on the ‘cross course.
Schwenderlauf says about six people from Bend will take part in the event. Using handcycles, they’ll race for 30 minutes on a modified section of the course’s grassy bowl area near the brewery on Saturday afternoon after the other races have finished.
Portland now operates the nation’s first partnership between a private bike shop, a bike share system and a city government to provide access to adaptive bicycles.
Adaptive Biketown is the latest evolution of our bike share system. But more importantly, adaptive bikes and the people who ride them are now a part of our city, our bikeways, and our community in a way they weren’t before.
One year ago Portland was readying for the big debut of its Nike-sponsored bike share system when a thorny issue popped up: The 1,000 Biketown bikes were useless to those with disabilities and who otherwise are unable to ride a standard bicycle.
Instead of ignore the problem, PBOT put their heads down and got to work. They launched a survey to garner feedback from people with disabilities (192 people responded) and convened a task force to figure out how the program could work. The result is a new bike rental system that will be separate from — but complementary to — the Biketown system. It’s set to launch next Friday July 21st.
The new program isn’t fully fleshed out yet; but based on the survey and interviews with adaptive bike users, PBOT has figured out enough to launch a pilot.
The city will work with two existing shops: Kerr Bikes, a rental company; and Different Spokes, an adaptive bike specialist. Each of them have agreed to provide a selection of handcycles, trikes, and tandems to registered users for short-term rentals. Kerr has locations on the Esplanade (near OMSI) and at Salmon Street Fountain in Waterfront Park. Different Spokes is located at SE 4th and Ivon, just steps away from the entrance of the Springwater Corridor.[Read more…]
The City of Portland took another step today toward fulfilling a promise they made last summer: To make the Biketown bike share program more accessible to people who are unable to ride conventional bicycles.
If all goes according to plan, adaptive bikes should be available for use by this summer.
To refresh your memory, this issue caught the Portland Bureau of Transportation off-guard last summer, just weeks before the scheduled launch of the Biketown program, when a local advocate for people with disabilities began to question the equity of a bike share system that wasn’t accessible by all of Portland’s bicycle riders. That advocate was Chloe Eudaly, who notched a victory on this issue when PBOT promised to find a solution and then went on to earn a victory at the ballot box when she became a Portland City Commissioner.
Eudaly’s prodding set PBOT on the path toward researching options and gathering information from adaptive bike users.
Today PBOT launched a survey to garner focused feedback on their plan. According to a press statement, PBOT will make adaptive bicycle rentals available through existing bike rental businesses that located near popular bike paths. Once the system is up-and-running, people who ride hand-cycles, three-wheeled trikes, and side-by-side tandems, would be able to rent one of the bikes near paths like the Eastbank Esplanade or the Springwater Corridor through a City-subsidized program.
It’s often assumed that cycling is only something that strong and athletic people can do. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Not only do people with all types of different abilities enjoy cycling, they do it on all types of bicycles. But for many of them, the barrier to bicycling isn’t physical, it’s financial.
Now there’s a Portland-based nonprofit that’s putting a dent in that problem by raising money to buy “therapeutic tricycles” for people who are unable to ride two-wheeled bikes.