accessibility · cycling

Not all bikes are pedaled by foot, Sam finds out

By nature I’m an introverted person. I don’t dislike strangers but usually I’m happy to smile at them from a distance.

For some reason, it’s different when I’m on my bike. People approach me to chat about my bike. What kind is it? (Cannondale, Super Six, Hi Mod) How fast does it go? How far did I ride?

So the other day I was just back from a ride sitting outside the Convent Garden Market eating my favourite soup, sweet potato chowder, and waiting for my flat white (a down under espresso drink we’ve taught the coffee shop to make). It was sunny and warm and I was with my bike, happy times.

A young woman walking with braces approached my table. “Can I look at your bike? ”


“I’m a cyclist too.”

I nod.

“I ride a hand cycle.”

She explained how her bike worked which was frankly fascinating. I didn’t know about hand cycles. Did you?

Here’s the Wikipedia definition: A handcycle is a type of human-powered land vehicle powered by the arms rather than the legs, as on a bicycle.

See the Handcycle Club of Canada website.

And pictures might help. Very cool. You learn something new everyday, especially when you talk to strangers.

And just like not all bikes are pedaled by foot, it’s also the case that not all bicycle brakes are operated by hand.

Bicycles can be adapted for a wide range of disabilities.

Though it appears that policing sometimes results in horrid ableist treatment for those riding adaptive bikes. See German police arrest one armed man for riding with one arm.

“A one-armed man in Germany has received a full apology and refund from the police after an overzealous officer fined him for cycling using only one arm.
Bogdan Ionescu, a theatre box office worker from Cologne, gets around the usually cycle-friendly city using a modified bicycle that allows him to operate both brakes – one with his foot.
But on 25 March he was pulled over by a police officer who, he says, told him he was breaking the law.
Under German road safety rules, bicycles are required to have to have two handlebar brakes. After a long argument at the roadside, the officer insisted that Mr Ionescu’s bike was not roadworthy and issued him with a €25 (£20) fine.”

It ends well at least. They’ve since apologized and refunded the fine. Good call.

5 thoughts on “Not all bikes are pedaled by foot, Sam finds out

  1. One of my former classmates races handcycle bikes 🙂 I’ve gotten to test one out (set up on a stationary trainer) for a lab study as well – seriously impressed by the upper body strength of people who ride those all the time!

  2. Lots of hand cycle bikes in Richmond Park (aka, home of the Deer Peloton) here in London. It’s such a pleasure to see them rocking around the glorious, woodland-and-heath 6-mile loop, often with “regular” riders along in their group. Some are disabled, some are just in it for the challenge. It diversifies the riders in the park and gives the bossy cycling clubs (I’m looking at you, London Dynamo) something to think about. Superb.
    (Also, Sam: who else have you taught to make a flat white?? Can you teach the Black Walnut kids?)

    1. Some of the Black Walnut staff can do it too. Don’t thank me. Thankk Applied Math professor Robert Corless.

  3. I’ve been interested in these as a way to get more upper-body exercise. I find gyms terribly boring, but I love biking. It’s too bad that they are such a niche product and very expensive (at least compared to a basic bicycle).

  4. I’ve seen a lot of hand cycles used in road races in Iowa and here in NC. Usually they are used by those who would otherwise race in the wheel chair division, but I’ve seen others use them as well.

    Cameron – I’ve seen a lot of gyms that have a hand cycle machine as well. We call them upper body ergometers and they are used a lot in pt. A good option if you want to avoid the cost of a hand cycle, but still get the idea.

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