Program helps visually impaired cycle trails

Bill Morgan helps Timeslia Edwards and Rob Clark  get ready to go for a ride on a tandem bicycle as part a new program that permits visually impaired people to cycle Brantford's trails. (Vincent Ball/The Expositor)

Bill Morgan helps Timeslia Edwards and Rob Clark get ready to go for a ride on a tandem bicycle as part a new program that permits visually impaired people to cycle Brantford’s trails. (Source: Vincent Ball/The Expositor)


Visually impaired people are cycling and enjoying the area’s trail system thanks to some dedicated volunteers.

Tandem bikes are now available for the visually impaired through a program made possible by the Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation. Volunteer “pilots” take the lead position on the bikes.

Launched in 2015, the foundation, based in Toronto, supports people with disabilities through sports and helps existing community sports and recreation facilities develop para-sport programs.

Similar cycling programs have been set up in Ottawa and Hamilton. The three cities shared a $75,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant.

The Brantford program began in July and continues until Aug. 25. Rides take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning just after 6 p.m. at W. Ross Macdonald School, which is a partner.

Anyone interested in participating can contact Rob Clark and Bill Morgan through Morgan is a teacher at W. Ross Macdonald and Clark is also affiliated with the school.

Timeslia Edwards, 18, a W. Ross Macdonald student, said she she has enjoyed cycling on Brantford’s trails.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Edwards, who is originally from Cochrane, Ont.

“It’s great that we have the trail system so close by. It’s a great way for visually impaired people to enjoy cycling and the trail system.”

There are nine tandem bikes and since the program started in July and on most nights, all of the bikes have been used. Chances are if you encounter one tandem cycle on the trail system on a Tuesday or Thursday night, you’ll probably see seven or eight more.

“It’s kind of cool when we’re out riding,” Morgan said. “Someone will go by us heading the other way and say, ‘Wow, cool bikes.'”

While it’s true that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget, riding tandem does require some adjustments.

“You have to work together, especially when it comes to hills,” David Ely, of Paris, one of the program’s several volunteers.

“If you have someone young and strong who really wants to charge up that hill, you have to be able to keep up.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to keep in shape.”

Nick Rollings, of Brantford, is also a volunteer rider.

“It’s a great way to meet new people and it’s supporting a good program,” Rollings said.

The foundation is named for Shelley Gautier, a 12-time world champion, who was nominated for the Laureus Award for the world sports person of the year with a disability in 2015. She was named female cyclist of the year in 2014 and 2015 by the Ontario Cycling Association.

As well, she was the torch bearer for the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto and a silver medallist at the mixed time trial event.

Gautier suffered a severe head injury in a mountain bike accident in 2001 which left her in a coma for six weeks.

Prior to her accident, Gautier was a physiotherapist and used her knowledge and love of cycling to help in her recovery. She was back on a bike in less than a year after being hurt and, by 2007, she was racing 50 kilometres.

She was the first female tricycle T1 rider on the international scene in early 2009 and was a silver medallist at the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan American Games and was a Paralympian at the 2012 London Summer Games.

Gautier was recently named to Canada’s 2016 Paralympic team that will compete in Rio De Janeiro following the Olympics.


Article Source: Brantford Expositor

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