I recently wrote an article for Momentum magazine on the Duet Bike program which allows frail, wheelchair-bound nursing home residents to be transported by bike for improved social engagement with the community outdoors.
Since the article was restricted by length, I could not elaborate on my short experience as a passenger in the same bike-driven wheelchair. So this addendum article fills the gap.
My passenger ride happened shortly after Brian (incorrectly named as Paul in Momentum) disembarked from the Duet Bike. Glen, the cycling volunteer, urged me to try.
So after bundling me in the wheelchair, we were off onto Pacific Blvd., a moderately busy 4-lane wide road with marked bike lanes in each direction and car parking. After crossing a Pacific Blvd. intersection, Glenn steered us onto the sidewalk for a short piece before pedaling back down onto Davie St. No doubt, we were a traffic-stopping sight since the Duet Bike is still rare but not totally unlike a pedicab.
He said it was safer to be briefly on the sidewalk away from the rushing cars and particularily for any frail elderly person in a wheelchair. No doubt, it is better for the wheelchair passenger to have been a previous cyclist who would be comfortable with the sensation of cars rushing nearby. However, most of the time during the ride with Glen’s visible jacket and his long-time cycling skills, I was at ease.
Only on Marinaside Dr., along a row of parked cars, did I suddenly realize what it would mean if I was car-doored: the wheelchair seat was literally at car door level. As a Duet Bike passenger, I would have no control to stop nor to steer quickly away.
Our little jaunt around the neighbourhood in the Duet Bike prompted some thoughts:
- Bike helmet for wheelchair passenger should not protrude into the chair backrest. A rounded helmet, like the Nutcase brand could be a solution, though adjustment of such helmet designs are abit more limited. Since I am short, this forced my head and upper body to lean forward for the entire ride instead of sitting back comfortably against the chair back. Alternatively the chair backrest could be designed for adjustment to different passenger heights
- Duet bike users and their vehicles are like other cyclists on regular bikes –safer in separated bike paths or bike lanes.
- There is interest in visibility of wheelchairs and safe wheelchair crossing at intersections according to keyword Google searches logged into our blog.
With a significant aging population, Duet Bikes will grow in popularity and cycling facilities should be designed with this in mind.
Chong, Jean. “Duet Bike Program: Wheelchair-Bound and Bicycle-Propelled Seniors”. In Momentum. Mar./Apr. 2010; Issue no. 44. See below.