Medal-winning wheelchair racer Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson attended a meeting of London Disability Cycling Forum to hear first-hand what it takes to encourage disabled people to cycle.
Dame Tanni, who enters the House of Lords this month, was keen to hear what the provision was for disabled cycling, and whether funding was adequate.
She said:"There are of course barriers to be overcome in trying to raise awareness of cycling as an activity that disabled people can take part in. I found it very interesting to meet people on the ground who have direct experience of cycling, whether on 2,3 or 4 wheels, in parks or on the road. It was good to hear first hand what they think is needed to encourage more disabled people to cycle."
Neil Smith, an occupational therapist who rides a trike around town as he has balance difficulties, was one of the Forum members who met Dame Tanni. He said: “Disabled people enjoy the same benefits from cycling as anyone such as being physically active, building self confidence and reducing stress, but they also enjoy others such as increased mobility. And cycling can help to change attitudes to disabled people more generally.”
Janet Paske, the chair of the Forum and manager of Wheels for Wellbeing, a cycling charity for disabled people, said: “Transport for London has for the first time included cycling in its Disability Equality Scheme following lobbying by our Forum, which is great news. We now need to continue working with them and local boroughs to help promote cycling as a possibility for disabled people. We also want to help them design roads for people who ride 3 or 4 wheeled cycles.
“This helps not only disabled people, but others who ride other types of cycle, such as parents taking children to school using child carriers, people with long term health conditions such as Parkinson's who don’t have the confidence to ride a two-wheeler safely and local businesses who do delivery runs by tricycle.”
Anne Wright, who was born with spina bifida hydrocephalus, rides at Wheels for Wellbeing sessions in a Brixton park. “I enjoy the club so much,” she said. “Cycling is about trying to help myself – getting out and exercising. It has made me determined and has given me much more confidence. I’m now even learning to ride a two-wheeler and hope to ride on the road in future. And that will make me much more independent”.