Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Portsmouth Cycle Forum is a group for anyone who cycles, or wants to cycle, in and around Portsmouth UK.

#WeRidePortsmouth - Laura

#WeRidePortsmouth - Laura

Laura uses a customised electric cycle, designed to connect to her wheelchair, along with a hand cycle for her daily travel in and around the city. The autonomy and social engagement that cycling provides is something she deeply appreciates. As a seasoned cyclist of many years, she would be delighted to see Portsmouth evolve into a preferred destination for cycling.

How do you use your bike around Portsmouth and beyond?

I have been living with a disability since 1994, a consequence of a bus crash in India, and I have deeply missed the experience of cycling ever since. In 2005, a fellow wheelchair user who lived in Wickham started to design cycles powered by a battery that could be attached to people’s wheelchairs. This bike gives you the opportunity to get off and go on cycle paths, and out of your car. This innovation has been a great for me, given my history as a cyclist.

I could arguably be considered a pioneer in the use of this type of attachable hand cycle. Initially, I primarily used it for festivals because it was great for getting around festival sites. Then I also discovered that it was really great for taking abroad.

My bicycle has accompanied me to various countries including India, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.

During my travels, I have found that my bicycle has covered more distance than my car has in the past decade.

The bicycle, while attached to the wheelchair, can be directly placed into the hold of an airplane. However, the rules for this procedure can vary depending on the specific airport.

Daily, I use it locally for shopping, running errands, visiting friends, and traveling to my volunteer work locations.

What do you like about travelling by bike?

I love that I have this piece of equipment, a bicycle which gets me out and about, in the countryside, on the beach. t has taken me on the travels around the world and I have so much fun. Alongside the hand cycle keeps me fit.

When you’re out on your bike, you bump into people. You constantly spot your friends walking or cycling, something that just doesn’t happen when you’re a car. So, biking’s been a real game changer for me, helping me to reconnect with old friends I haven’t seen in a while, all because I’m out and about on my bike instead of being behind the wheel.

Back in the day, we all used to walk to school, no one came to pick us up. There was more time for chats between parents and less of a mad dash to get back to the car. Sure, the car would make an appearance when the weather was really bad, but that was a rarity.

Things seem so different now, and people are missing that connection with each other. But hey, cycling could be the answer to that.

Tell us a bit more about your bike?

Often, people approach me with a curiosity about my bicycle, particularly its mechanics. Many individuals with disabilities have also been interested. I was fortunate to receive grants for this bicycle and my hand cycle, but securing such funding has become increasingly challenging. There is a mobility allowance available that can be applied towards the purchase of a bicycle. However, given the cost of this equipment, many are faced with the difficult decision of choosing between a bicycle and a car. The initial investment for both can be prohibitively expensive. Subsidies for these bicycles would be very welcome.

An excellent initiative would be the introduction of a rental service for wheelchair-attachable bicycles. Disability groups have been looking into a ‘universal’ option that could be attached to any wheelchair, but such a solution does not yet exist.

Should such a service become available, it would greatly simplify travel. Knowing that I could rent a bicycle at my destination, much like conventional rental bicycles, would be incredibly convenient.

I hope it will happen, but these things take time.

What isn’t so great about cycling in the city?

I am longing for the day when Portsmouth evolves into a more cycle-friendly city. While progress has been made, there is still room for improvement. Ideally, Portsmouth could become a destination for cycling, attracting people who might otherwise bypass it in favour of places like the Isle of Wight.

With the ongoing seafront works and new infrastructure throughout the city, I am hopeful that Portsmouth will soon become more connected and appealing for cycling.

However, there are still too many people who rely on cars when they are not necessary and the prevalence of short-distance drives needs to be addressed.

Storage also can be challenging, particularly for disabled people who wish to cycle but do not live in adapted properties.

Nevertheless, the introduction of new infrastructure, including cycle lanes and crossings, has increased safety. Coupled with the new highway code, drivers appear to be becoming more aware and considerate.

Ultimately, I would like to see improved cycling facilities and improved access to the waterfront.

What else would you like to add?

I would like to see a future where cycling is more accessible for individuals with disabilities. However, the high cost of specialized bicycles, including electric and hand cycles, can often be a barrier. These can be up to ten times more expensive than a mobility scooter, yet they offer the potential for improved health and activity levels.

Moreover, there are infrastructural challenges that make cycling more difficult for disabled people. These include obstacles such as barriers and the absence of necessary dropped kerbs. I would like to see that changed.

Nevertheless, cycling brings a lot of joy, so if you are hesitant to give it a go here are some tips: plan your route, choose paths that make you feel safe, and if you’re still unsure, consider bringing a friend along for support. Happy cycling!

From the PCF Team

We thank Laura for sharing her inspiring cycling journey. Her exceptional story demonstrates that cycling is an activity for everyone. It serves as a powerful facilitator that promotes increased activity and connectivity among people. Moreover, it can be a means of independence, and with the integration of inclusive infrastructure, it can provide countless opportunities for travel.

Would you like to share your story about ordinary people doing ordinary things on their bikes in the city? We’d love to hear from you.

Get in touch at info@pompeybug.co.uk