Everything You Need to Know for Inclusive Cycling
The fitness benefits of a good bike ride (both physical and mental) are well known. People with physical challenges or disabilities have found that riding trails is a great way to stay fit and boost mood.
In fact, a 2017 study in the UK found that “a majority of disabled cyclists (69%) said they find cycling easier than walking, which we know is often the case because cycling reduces strain on the joints, aids balance and alleviates breathing difficulties.”
Inclusive cycling is about supporting people of all ages and abilities so they can enjoy the benefits of cycling. Biking offers independence and confidence.
Adaptive bicycles are designed specifically for those with limited physical capabilities so it’s easier to control and steer. They also have features that make them more comfortable and safer to use than conventional bikes.
For example, some models have seats with widely adjustable ranges so they're accessible at any height. Another type has an extended frame design with larger wheels so people who use wheelchairs can comfortably ride standing up rather than sitting down. Another fantastic adaptive bike features an adjustable crank system where each pedal is independently adjustable while still being connected via rods as one unit. Others include extra-wide tires for better balance at slower speeds and more shock absorption when going over bumps in the road surface.
Whatever your challenges, you shouldn’t be intimidated by the thought of cycling, because there are many options to choose from!
What Makes an Accessible Trail for Bikes and Pedestrians?
Even with adaptive bikes, finding decent and accessible trails for bikes and pedestrians can be difficult because it’s hard to know which trails are accessible and which ones arent.
Fortunately, there are some resources to make this easier. But first, let’s clarify what “accessible trail” means. You probably can picture one in your head, but what criteria or features make a trail accessible for bikes and pedestrians?
There are actually a number of good sources that discuss this idea in detail. Some key features of an accessible trail are:
- Grading, cross-slope, and elevation - It’s important to find trails that are not too steep or difficult to manage, especially for beginners. If a trail is too steep, it might be hard to maintain a steady speed and keep control of your bike.
- Cross-slope - The side-to-side elevation of the trail is important. In general, look for trails where the grading and cross-slope are 5% or less. Most good cycling apps that give trail descriptions will include this information in their descriptions.
- Smoothness and lack of hazards - Different types of adaptive bikes handle hazards differently, so it is important to find a trail that has a smooth surface that’s free of hazards, extreme bumps, or lots of debris like branches, loose gravel, or rocks that could throw off your balance and cause you to fall. Keep an eye out for roots sticking up from the ground—these can be especially dangerous when wet or covered with leaves!
- Good width and good sight-lines - Try to find trails where the width is at least 60”; look for trails where people in both directions have enough room to pass safely. If possible, find trails with wide shoulders, these provide extra space in which cyclists can stop for a rest, if needed, without obstructing other cyclists.
- Safety Features for Cyclists and Pedestrians - Becoming more common is the fusing of bike lanes and pedestrian paths into “Multi-Use Paths”. Because walking and biking are very different modes of transportation, there needs to be measures in place to separate and protect each pathway. Furthermore in the spirit of inclusion, these “multi-use paths” must have features in place for those with low-to-no vision.
Find Accessible Bike Trails in your Area
There are lots of resources to find accessible trails in your area, and some include trails that are accessible by wheelchair as well as bikes. Here are three tips on finding the perfect accessible bike trails in your area:
- Download TrailLink - Check out the database of trails by TrailLink (from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy). This database will let you search for trails in your state and refine your search based on what you are looking for. What makes this database exceptionally useful is that you can read reviews of each trail to learn more about it and how it is maintained.
- Use biking apps or accessible trails apps - Many apps allow you to search for accessible trails in your area. Some even let you narrow down results by different types of ability (like wheelchair-accessible or sensory-friendly). Many biking apps have active biking communities and allow you get in contact with your community.
- Call the parks for more details - Don’t be shy about calling local parks (or parks that you want to visit) and asking them about the features or challenges of the park. They will be able to give you details about accessibility and other features like places to stop, rest, or trail facilities.
4 Apps for Finding Trails and Tracking your Bike Ride
If you love biking outdoors, but don't know where there might be accessible bike trails nearby, check out these four different apps:
- TrailLink - Search, explore, and plan your trail for free. You can download trail information to your phone and avoid getting lost when you don’t have any service on your phone.
- AllTrails - This great website helps when searching for trails with accessibility information, and they have created multiple apps to make using the info easier on your phone.
- Map My Ride or Wahoo Fitness - These apps are built for tracking your ride, but they also have features that can be useful in finding trails and tracking rides. Both apps support motivation for cyclists and create challenges for you to overcome.
- Komoot - A fantastic app to use when biking, it provides you with a route planner for everywhere you go, and not just for trails. If you’d like to plan a ride that’s in a city, this app will let you see a map of all possible routes and show you maps of where you want to go.
Get Out and Ride!
As you can see, if you’d like to ride, you have many resources to do so. The most common physical barriers include lack of accessible trails, lack of accessible bathrooms, and poor infrastructure for disabled riders (e.g., poorly maintained trails). There may also be attitudinal barriers such as a lack of training for disability in the park staff, or even just a lack of support within communities who aren’t aware of the needs for accessibility in their communities. All challenges can be resolved with time and effort. But for today, go out, start pedaling, and have fun!
At StrongGo Industries, we believe in creating a more accessible world and we do that for pedestrians and cyclists alike. An example of our latest accessible design is our trapezoidal delineator that provides sufficient protective border between the pedestrian and bike paths . Providing thoroughly studied tactile detection while not totally preventing needed crossings, these enable smooth traveling along both paths. Speak to one of our industry experts today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.